NASA Wants to Know If Space Travel Affects Plant and Animal Evolution
The agency is laying the groundwork for long-term human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
The space agency began accepting proposals for a number of different projects under its space biology research program, a broad initiative aimed at investigating how short- and long-term spaceflights affect the internal processes of cells, microorganisms, plants and animals. Projects will also focus on how space environments affect reproduction and evolution over multiple generations.
“Space biology science enables NASA to achieve the goals of fundamental and translational biology research in space that is critical to the Agency’s exploration and space commercialization missions,” officials wrote in the research announcement.
The program comes as NASA begins laying the groundwork for long-term human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
President Trump in December signed Space Policy Directive 1, a measure that calls on NASA to reinvigorate its space exploration efforts and work with international and commercial organizations to “enable human expansion across the solar system.” NASA officials said the agency could begin launching missions to the moon as early as next year.
We likely won’t see astronauts growing crops or raising livestock on those early missions, but space biology research could unlock the secrets to sustaining life during months- or even years-long expeditions in the decades ahead.