A handful of seeds will take off into outer space early Monday with a cargo of supplies for the International Space Station.
The seeds will be planted in the space station next month, and will tend to grow in a weed while the space station orbits the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour.
The harvest will be returned to Earth for study by scientists, including a team in Richland.
Researchers led by scientist Mary Lipton in the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) on the campus of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will receive a fragment of each plant.
"The space environment is stressful for all living organisms," says a summary of the study conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. "Understanding how plants respond will help crews in future missions to grow plants for the generation of food and oxygen."
The Washington State University in Pullman leads the $ 2.3 million study, called The Final Frontier Plant Habitat.
The seeds being sent to the space station are from the Arabidopsis plant, a working horse for the scientific community because much is known about them. They are related to cabbage and mustard.
Some of the seeds will be identical to those of wild plants and others have been modified by WSU Regents Professor Norman G. Lewis lacks normal amounts if lignin, the fibrous substance that allows plants to grow upright.