Chris Wolverton, John Z. Kiss


Space craft in low-Earth orbit can provide a microgravity
laboratory for the study of the fundamental processes underlying gravity perception and plant development. This microgravity environment also presents significant challenges for the cultivation of plants for biological life support systems and as a supplemental food source for astronauts. The goal of this brief review is to highlight the progress made in these areas over the last decade. Although some advances have been made in a number of fields of fundamental space biology, most remain in the early stages of development due to the limited number of opportunities for spaceflight experiments. In almost all research areas, interpretation of flight experiments would be improved through the use of an onboard centrifuge to provide a 1-g control, a capability available on some facilities on the International Space Station (ISS). Paradoxically, just as the ISS nears completion, investment in fundamental biological research and access to this state-of-the-art platform for research in microgravity will become severely limited due to both the retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle and the reorganization of NASA around the exploration agenda.

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