Press Panel Regarding International Space Station to Include Researcher from UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - Mary Musgrave, a space researcher and associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts, will be among the members of a panel that will speak to the press tomorrow, Tues. July 25, at the Kennedy Space Center, regarding the docking of the International Space Station''s service module. The docking is slated to take place Tuesday evening.

The press conference has been coordinated by NASA, and is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, shortly before the Russian service module is scheduled to rendezvous at 8:53 p.m. with the International Space Station (ISS). Musgrave and her colleagues are scheduled to discuss ISS research opportunities and benefits prior to the docking. Other panelists are Millburn "Kim" Jessup of the University of Texas Health Science Center, John Estes of the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Ronald Sega of the University of Colorado.

An active researcher and adjunct professor of biology at UMass, Musgrave studies "space biology," that is, plants'' responses to the stresses of spaceflight. Five of her experiments have flown in space: four on NASA''s space shuttle, and one on the recently abandoned Russian spacecraft Mir. Musgrave''s research explores how weightlessness affects plant growth and reproduction. Funded by NASA, the experiments have yielded clues about biological processes that take place during a plant''s life cycle. Specifically, the research focuses on whether plants can make seeds in space - crucial information if current plans toward constructing a space station are ever to be successful. Her lab will analyze plant material from the International Space Station, and oversee an outreach project that will enable area schoolchildren to observe the plants via the Internet.

The event is taking place in conjunction with the Space Station Utilization Advisory Subcommittee, which is meeting in Cocoa Beach, Fla. this week. Musgrave serves on the committee.