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12 Years of Plant Experiments on the International Space Station

12 years of plant experiments conducted aboard the International Space Station hold potential for missions to the moon and Mars missions. 

October 3, 2023
Research on plant growth in space.
Research on plant growth in space.

Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIriS) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) had various plant experiments running on the International Space Station for more than 12 years.

CIRiS received support for these experiments both through funding from the Norwegian Space Agency and various contracts with ESA, the latter within the program for Human Exploration and Transportation. Over the course of the 12 years of Norwegian plant experiments at the space station, 12 different experiments examined a range of stimuli and genetic variants to identify what factors effect plant growth in space.

The knowledge from the experiments will be crucial for long space journeys to the Moon or Mars, where astronauts will need to cultivate a significant portion of their own food.

On the space station, the plants were placed in special growth chambers built by CIRiS. Light, air, water, temperature, and gravity were regulated from a control room by CIRiS on the ground and monitored through video.

The plant chambers were installed by astronauts at the space station, who also blogged about and shared pictures of the plant experiments.

In 2018, CIRiS won a call for proposals from ESA, competing with companies from all over Europe, to create growth chambers for an experiment involving the growth of lung cells on the space station. 

In 2023 are CIRiS collaborating with the Norwegian company Solsys Mining to investigate how plants can be cultivated at the moon.