Wednesday March 20, 2019
Home Lead Story NASA Plans To...

NASA Plans To Install An Instrument To Monitor Plant Water Use

The instrument, called ECOSTRESS, or ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometre Experiment on Space Station

0
//
NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Nasa's Opportunity rover might have 'died' on Mars. Flickr

NASA plans to install on the International Space Station (ISS) an instrument that will measure the temperature of plants from space, enabling researchers to determine plant water use and to study how drought conditions affect plant health.

The instrument, called ECOSTRESS, or ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometre Experiment on Space Station, will hitch a ride to the space station on a SpaceX cargo resupply mission scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 29, NASA said on Tuesday.

Plants draw in water from the soil, and as they are heated by the Sun, the water is released through pores on the plants’ leaves through a process called transpiration.

This cools the plant down, much as sweating does in humans. However, if there is not enough water available to the plants, they close their pores to conserve water, causing their temperatures to rise.

Plants use those same pores to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis — the process they use to turn carbon dioxide and water into the sugar they use as food.

If they continue to experience insufficient water availability, or “water stress,” they eventually starve or overheat, and die.

The data from ECOSTRESS will show these changes in plants’ temperatures, providing insight into their health and water use while there is still time for water managers to correct agricultural water imbalances.

“When a plant is so stressed that it turns brown, its often too late for it to recover,” said Simon Hook, ECOSTRESS principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“But measuring the temperature of the plant lets you see that a plant is stressed before it reaches that point,” Hook said.

Space
Space, Pixabay

These temperature measurements are also considered an early indicator of potential droughts.

When plants in a given area start showing signs of water stress through elevated temperature, an agricultural drought is likely underway.

Having these data in advance gives the agricultural community a chance to prepare and/or respond accordingly, NASA said.

Also read: Woman Sues NASA Over Keeping Moon Dust Gifted to Her by Neil Armstrong

“ECOSTRESS will allow us to monitor rapid changes in crop stress at the field level, enabling earlier and more accurate estimates of how yields will be impacted,” said Martha Anderson, an ECOSTRESS science team member with the US Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland. (IANS)

Next Story

Researchers Have Developed An Anti-Microbial Coating That Will Help Astronauts Fight Superbugs on ISS

"Immuno-suppression, bacterial virulence and infection risk increase with duration of spaceflight. We must continue to develop new approaches to combat bacterial infections if we are to attempt longer missions to Mars and beyond," Grohmann noted.

0
astronauts
A regular silver coating tested for comparison had only a slight anti-microbial effect, reducing the number of bacteria by 30 per cent against steel. VOA

Researchers have developed an anti-microbial coating that reduced the growth of bacteria on contamination-prone surfaces at the ISS, and could help protect astronauts beyond the Moon and Mars from the antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Microgravity, cosmic radiation, psychological stress and unearthly conditions at the International Space Station (ISS) lead to weakened immune system and strengthening of bacteria that can put the crew at risk.

In the study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology journal, the team tested a new anti-microbial coating named AGXX, made of precious metals, on the toilet door. It proved to be highly effective.

DNA
To make matters worse, the genes responsible for these new traits can be readily shared among different species of bacteria. Pixabay

After six months, no bacteria were recovered from AGXX-coated surfaces.

Even at 12-19 months, just 12 bacteria were recovered — a reduction of 80 per cent compared with bare steel. A regular silver coating tested for comparison had only a slight anti-microbial effect, reducing the number of bacteria by 30 per cent against steel.

“AGXX contains silver and ruthenium, conditioned by a vitamin derivative, and it kills all kinds of bacteria as well as certain fungi, yeasts and viruses,” said Professor Elisabeth Grohmann from the Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, Germany.

bacteria
Thus, the bacteria they carry become harder — developing thick protective coatings and resistance to antibiotics — more vigorous, multiplying and metabolising faster.
Pixabay

“The effects are similar to bleach, except the coating is self-regenerating and never gets used up,” Grohmann said.

Grohmann noted that spaceflight can turn harmless bacteria into potential pathogens as the stress hormones leave astronauts vulnerable to infection.

Also Read:South Korea Installs Laser Beams at Road to Warn ‘Smartphone Zombies’ of Traffic

Thus, the bacteria they carry become harder — developing thick protective coatings and resistance to antibiotics — more vigorous, multiplying and metabolising faster.

To make matters worse, the genes responsible for these new traits can be readily shared among different species of bacteria.

“Immuno-suppression, bacterial virulence and infection risk increase with duration of spaceflight. We must continue to develop new approaches to combat bacterial infections if we are to attempt longer missions to Mars and beyond,” Grohmann noted. (IANS)