NASA-Supported Plant Experiment Flies to Suborbital Space with Virgin Galactic
On Sunday, July 11, Virgin Galactic will attempt its first fully crewed spaceflight and the crew will have NASA-supported technology with them.
Three Kennedy Space Center Fixation Tubes (KFTs), like the one shown here, will contain Arabidopsis thaliana plants during the crewed Unity 22 flight to space. Virgin Galactic’s Sirisha Bandla will activate the tubes to release a preservative that will capture the plants’ biochemistry at specific points during transitions into and out of microgravity, and co-investigators from the University of Florida will conduct gene expression analyses on the plants in the weeks following the flight. (University of Florida)
Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations at Virgin Galactic, will operate the experiment on the "Unity 22" flight on behalf of co-investigators Dr. Robert Ferl and Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Bandla will activate three plant-filled tubes to release a preservative at critical data-collection stages during the flight: at 1 g before the rocket boost, just before entering microgravity, and after the conclusion of microgravity.
While the university researchers have flown similar experiments supported by NASA's Flight Opportunities program on suborbital flights, data collected during the Unity 22 flight will provide a first look at human-tended payloads on SpaceShipTwo.