This week researchers from the UF Horticultural Sciences department are in Houston, TX testing plants’ responses to changes in gravity. As part of their work to developing plants grown on the International Space Station, plant molecular biologists Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul will be exposing plants to zero gravity conditions through a parabolic flight campaign.
Parabolic flights use commercial aircraft to achieve zero gravity for 20-25 seconds by adjusting the flight angle to resemble a parabola, as shown in this diagram:
The scientists on board the flight will be monitoring how plants react to these conditions. Since plants are not evolved to adapt to zero gravity, these flights help researchers see what previously existing pathways these plants will engage as a response to the stress.
The data they collect during these experiments will help Drs. Ferl and Paul better understand plant’s reaction to prolonged zero gravity conditions, like those on the space station.
For a more detailed look what it’s like to ride in a parabolic flight, check out the lab’s blog:
Photo taken from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zero_gravity_flight_trajectory_C9-565.jpg#/media/File:Zero_gravity_flight_trajectory_C9-565.jpg