NASA-funded scientists are researching methods to
address current issues and future needs for efficiently
growing plants on Mars.

The research is being conducted in the specialized low-
pressure and Mars-simulation chambers at the new state-of-
the-art Space Life Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Kennedy
Space Center (KSC), Fla.

The research data, featured on the cover of the January 2004
issue of the scientific journal Plant Physiology, focuses on
using reduced pressure environments to increase the
scientific and engineering benefits of plant growth
experiments. The data indicates, with the currently available
materials on Mars, a greenhouse structure could only be
constructed if the internal pressure of the greenhouse was
maintained below approximately one-sixteenth of Earth’s
atmospheric pressure.

“Since extraterrestrial colonies and space vehicles may well
employ reduced atmospheric pressures to lower the time and
engineering costs of missions, we now have the beginnings of
an understanding of how those atmospheres will impact our
long-term life support system,” said Robert Ferl, director,
Space Agriculture Biotechnology Research and Education,
University of Florida, Gainesville.

Ferl is principal investigator for the project and author of
the featured paper “Hypobaric Biology. Arabidopsis Gene
Expression at Low Atmospheric Pressure.” Research team
members and co-authors include Anna-Lisa Paul and Mick Popp,
University of Florida; and Andrew Schuerger, Dynamac Corp.,
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