Approaches in the Design of a Space Plant Cultivation Facility for Arabidopsis Thaliana 2004-01-2459
The present suite of advanced space plant cultivation facilities require a significant level of resources to launch and maintain in flight. The facilities are designed to accommodate a broad size range of plant species and are, therefore, not configured to support the specific growth requirements of small plant species such as Arabidopsis thaliana at maximum efficiency with respect to mass and power. The facilities are equally not configured to support automated plant harvesting or tissue processing procedures, but rely on crew intervention and time. The recent reorganization of both spaceflight opportunities and allocation of limited in-flight resources demand that experiments be conducted with optimal efficiency. The emergence of A. thaliana as a dominant space flight model organism utilized in research on vegetative and reproductive phase biology provides strong justification for the establishment of a dedicated cultivation system for this species. This paper presents work on the design of a small plant cultivation facility directed at supporting research on the vegetative growth phase of A. thaliana. The design of the facility is based on the use of existing space flight hardware, and configured to support the fully automated germination of seed, cultivation of plants, and final termination of plant growth by chemical fixation and preservation of plant tissue.