Inner to Outer Space: Studying Biological Changes with Plants on Rockets

The University of Florida’s “space plants” experiment studies include Arabidopsis thaliana plants, as seen here, engineered with fluorescence signaling molecules for precise imaging using advanced cameras and sensors. (Credits: University of Florida)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

What happens to the genes of organisms as they travel from the ground, through Earth’s atmosphere and into space? Does their expression change? Are the changes subtle or dramatic? Do they happen quickly or gradually?

Answering such fundamental research questions is essential to our understanding of the impact of space travel on humans and other organisms. Two researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville have been chipping away at the answers since the 1990s—using plants.

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NASA’s Small Investments in Small Businesses Pay Big Dividends

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Sustainable Bioproducts, a previous recipient and NASA STTR funding, uses extremophile organisms from volcanic springs to create edible proteins. (Credits: Jim Peaco/National Park Service)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In 2013, a startup company had an idea for using extremophile organisms from volcanic springs to create edible proteins that would serve as an environmentally conscious alternative to meat-based proteins.

Following a handful of small investments from government agencies, including a $124,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract from NASA, Sustainable Bioproducts announced in early 2019 it received $33 million in venture capital financing, including backing from two of the world’s biggest food and agriculture companies.

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One Giant Leap for Lunar Landing Navigation Taken in Mojave

This map of the Moon shows the five candidate landing sites chosen by the Apollo Site Selection Board in February 1968. Photographs gathered during earlier uncrewed reconnaissance missions gave NASA information about terrain features. (Credit: NASA)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

MOJAVE, Calif., September 13, 2019 (NASA PR) — When Apollo 11’s lunar module, Eagle, landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, it first flew over an area littered with boulders before touching down at the Sea of Tranquility. The site had been selected based on photos collected over two years as part of the Lunar Orbiter program.

But the “sensors” that ensured Eagle was in a safe spot before touching down – those were the eyes of NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong.

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