UF's IFAS team is helping NASA get one step closer to Mars

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The University of Florida’s IFAS team is working alongside NASA and Space X on their mission to Mars.

“Algae is a plant that would be grown in space because if photosynthetically efficient, ad so it could be grown in much smaller volumes than the veggie unit itself, and it grows very fast as well,” says Mark Settles, UF professor in horticulture science.

Algae has potential to be used in a multitude of ways, from bioplastics, biofuels, food and even air purification.

But first—they have to know what can survive aboard a spaceship.

“It’s kind of a challenge because if you’ve ever seen videos of astronauts handling liquids in space, they do not behave the same way that they do on earth because of the lack of gravity,” says Settles.

The team has been working on this project since last April, by using special and breathable plastics to store the algae.

Now that they are exactly a week away from their launch, nerves are high.

“Before today I was pretty confident, but now I start to get worried,” says Junya Zhang, UF’s postdoctoral researcher. “I’m trying to make sure everything is perfect and in the right condition, and that everything is there.”

The team only has one shot to make this work, and after multiple simulations and test they say that are ready—for lift off.

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