OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — NASA's second SpaceX mission to the International Space Station will carry an experiment developed by a University of Mississippi biologist.
The launch is scheduled for Friday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The mission is the second of 12 SpaceX flights contracted by NASA to resupply the space station.
The experiment, by John Z. Kiss, dean of the Ole Miss Graduate School, involves seedling growth.
Kiss, who will be at the launch, said in a news release that the experiment will study light and gravity signaling in plants and their effects on cell growth and proliferation. He said the experiment may lead to improving crop species on Earth to obtain increased production and sustainability.
"Since plants will be a necessary part of bioregenerative life support needed to send humans to Mars and beyond, the knowledge obtained from our space flight experiments will be critical for developing ways to effectively use plants in these life-support systems," Kiss said.
Kiss is collaborating with F. Javier Medina of Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas in Madrid.
The seedlings' containers will be placed in a large incubator that provides control over the atmosphere, lighting and humidity of growth chambers to study plant growth. The experiment containers contain white, blue and red lights that can be controlled from the ground to expose the plants to different kinds of light.
"The samples will be either frozen or chemically fixed and returned to us," Kiss said. "Additionally, images will be taken throughout the whole experiment and downloaded real time."
Kiss has worked with NASA since 1987 and has served as principal investigator on six spaceflight projects on the space shuttle, the Russian space station Mir and the International Space Station. This project started in 2011 and was selected through an international competition by competitive peer-review panel and then by NASA.