Agriculture out of this world
Space-grown soybeans return to Earth
October 21, 2002 -- The space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth October 18, 2002, with the
planted, germinated and harvested in space. The 97-day growth research
initiative is the first-ever
to complete a major crop growth
cycle in space, demonstrates that space crop production can be
potentially support long-term human presence in space.
In June, scientists with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., and the
Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and
Robotics (WCSAR) - a NASA Commercial Space Center at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison - launched
the soybean seed experiment on Space Shuttle Endeavour. As part of the
research mission, Pioneer-brand
soybean seeds grew in a specialized tray within a growth chamber
developed by WCSAR. Pioneer scientists
monitored the soybeans' growth daily and provided nutrient adjustments
to facilitate growth.
With the soybeans and seeds now on Earth, Pioneer and WCSAR will analyze
the harvested seeds to determine
if they have improved oil, protein, carbohydrates or secondary
metabolites that could benefit farmers and consumers.
Seeds exhibiting unique and desirable qualities will be planted by
Pioneer scientists to determine if the traits
can be inherited in future generations. Pioneer will identify the
genetics of those traits and use that information
to further improve the soybeans' efficiency and profitability for farmers.
"This was an incredible scientific opportunity for us and our partners,"
said Dr. Tom Corbin, DuPont researcher on the
project. "Studying the effects of soybean plants grown in space will
help us expand our knowledge of soybeans
and facilitate continued improvement of soybean germplasm for farmers."