Classic Astrobotany: Let’s Grow Algae in Space

Nearly sixty-five years ago, in 1954, NASA biologist Jack Myers was one of the first scientists to test algae (Chlorella) for oxygen production and recycling of carbon dioxide.  A pioneer of astrobotany, he theorized that algae could be an essential part of a bioregenerative life support system.  This was one of the earliest examples of life support astrobotany research being performed.

Today, University of Florida researcher Dr. Mark Settles continues the legacy of Jack Myers research, and other space algal research experiments, with a brand new project involving algae on the ISS.  Dr. Settles plans to grow select strains of algae in a spaceflight environment to gain a better understanding of its potential as both a gas recycler and a food source.  After the experiment finishes in space, the algae will return to earth to have its genome sequenced.

This isn’t the University of Florida’s first tango with astrobotany, either.  The UF Space Plants lab, led by Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul and Dr. Rob Ferl, is a leader in astrobotany research.

The resupply rocket (SpaceX CRS-15) containing the algae is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on June 29th, 2018.

Let’s grow plants in space.

Photo Credit: Jaleel Akbash

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