Changes in operational procedures to improve spaceflight experiments in plant biology in the European Modular Cultivation System
Kiss, John Z., et al. (2014). "Changes in operational procedures to improve spaceflight experiments in plant biology in the European Modular Cultivation System." Advances in Space Research 53 5: 818-827
The microgravity environment aboard orbiting spacecraft has provided a unique laboratory to explore topics in basic plant biology as well as applied research on the use of plants in bioregenerative life support systems. Our group has utilized the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to study plant growth, development, tropisms, and gene expression in a series of spaceflight experiments. The most current project performed on the ISS was termed Seedling Growth-1 (SG-1) which builds on the previous TROPI (for tropisms) experiments performed in 2006 and 2010. Major technical and operational changes in SG-1 (launched in March 2013) compared to the TROPI experiments include: (1) improvements in lighting conditions within the EMCS to optimize the environment for phototropism studies, (2) the use of infrared illumination to provide high-quality images of the seedlings, (3) modifications in procedures used in flight to improve the focus and overall quality of the images, and (4) changes in the atmospheric conditions in the EMCS incubator. In SG-1, a novel red-light-based phototropism in roots and hypocotyls of seedlings that was noted in TROPI was confirmed and now can be more precisely characterized based on the improvements in procedures. The lessons learned from sequential experiments in the TROPI hardware provide insights to other researchers developing space experiments in plant biology.