Group Leader/s



On August 10, 2015, the image of three crewmembers of the International Space Station (ISS) tasting a snack of a lettuce that had been grown and harvested onboard, impacted mass media all over the world.

«It was one small bite for man, one giant leap for #NASAVEGGIE and our #JourneytoMars. #YearInSpace»,

wrote the astronaut Scott Kelly in Twitter below the videoclip showing the salad snack

He had become the first real space farmer.

This event was an outstanding outcome of the project “Vegetable Production System” (“Veggie”), a plant growth facility that had been capable of producing a small crop of a salad-type plant to provide the crew with a safe source of fresh food of good quality in terms of taste and nutrition. In addition, the culture served as a relaxing and recreational activity for the crew.

Eating the first space-grown lettuce

«The farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits»,

said Gioia Massa, Veggie’s payload scientist.

«I think that plant systems will become important components of any long-duration exploration scenario».

These statements expressed by Dr. Massa are shared by all parties involved in the coming enterprises of space exploration, from scientists to managers and decision-makers of the most important space agencies worldwide. 
However, does this mean that all the obstacles for the successful and continuous growth of plants in space have been removed?
The answer, from the perspective of plant biology research, is “no”, or, at least, “not yet”. Plant biologists believe that the results of Veggie and other similar experiments performed in the ISS open new questions and challenges to the scientific work. It is true that a higher plant did grow in space until an adult stage showing apparently the same shape, features and composition as they display on Earth. Nevertheless, we do not know how that plant overcame the cellular and molecular alterations that were produced in many physiological processes caused by the exposure to the space environment, according to many different reports (Herranz and Medina 2014; Medina 2020). Finding the keys to solve this paradox is one of the most exciting challenges of space biology research, with the global objective of enabling plant culture outside the Earth to support human space exploration.

Our research team is involved in this enterprise.


Dr. F. Javier Medina has been awarded with the COSPAR Medal of International Cooperation, shared with Prof. John Z. Kiss (University of North Carolina, Greensboro, USA). More info

The award includes the nomination of the Minor Planet '8333' with the name "Medina". More info

See an interview with Dr. Medina on the occasion of this award. Click here





Members of the PCNPμG Team

Medina, F. Javier, Manzano, Aránzazu, Kamal, Khaled Y., Ciska, Malgorzata, Herranz, Raúl  [2021]. Plants in space: novel physiological challenges and adaptation mechanisms. Progress in Botany. 83:In press-.

Herranz, Raúl, Valbuena, Miguel A. , Manzano, Aránzazu , Kamal, Khaled Y. , Villacampa, Alicia , Ciska, Malgorzata, van Loon, Jack J.W.A. , Medina, F. Javier  [2020]. Use of reduced gravity simulators for plant biological studies. Plant Gravitropism: Methods and Protocols, 2nd Edition. Methods in Molecular Biology. In press.:-.



Agencia Estatal de Investigación/Spanish National Agency for Research. Ref. RTI2018-099309-B-I00

European Space Agency (ESA), CORA-GBF Program. Projects "GIA-2" and "Rootrops".  Ref. 4000130341/20/NL/PG/pt

European Space Agency (ESA). Topical Teams Program. Project "Space-Omics". Ref. 4000131202/20/NL/PG/pt

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. Zero-Gravity Instrument Project (ZGIP)-United Nations Human Space Technology Initiative (UN-HSTI)


More info


Aránzazu Manzano Pérez: "Synergistic effect of light and gravity on cell growth and proliferation in Arabidopsis thaliana / Efecto sinérgico de la luz y la gravedad sobre el crecimiento y la proliferación celular en Arabidopsis thaliana. Supervisors: F. Javier Medina & Raúl Herranz. Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Sobresaliente cum laude (2019).

Miguel Ángel Valbuena Crespo: "Interacción entre la percepción de la luz y la gravedad sobre el crecimiento y la proliferación celular en Arabidopsis thaliana: simulación en Tierra y definición del experimento espacial “Seedling Growth”. Complutense University of Madrid, Faculty of Biological Sciences. Supervisors: Raúl Herranz and Eugénie Carnero-Díaz (2016)

Khaled Youssef Kamal: “Alterations induced by gravity changes in proliferating cultured cells of Arabidopsis thaliana”. Complutense University of Madrid, Faculty of Biological Sciences. Supervisors: Raúl Herranz and F. Javier Medina (2014).

Ana Isabel Manzano Pérez: “Functional changes in proliferating cells of Arabidopsis thaliana grown in altered gravity environments”. Complutense University of Madrid, Faculty of Biological Sciences. Supervisors: Raúl Herranz and F. Javier Medina (2012).

Isabel Matía Jurado: "The functional organization of the nucleolus, cell cycle and proliferation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Alterations induced by gravitational changes / La organización funcional del nucleolo, la proliferación y el ciclo celular en Arabidopsis thaliana. Alteraciones inducidas por cambios gravitatorios". Supervisor: F. Javier Medina. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Obtained qualification: Sobresaliente cum laude. Date of reading: 2008


Iris Fañanás Pueyo: "The influence of the absence or presence of light on the plant response to simulated microgravity conditions / La influencia de la presencia y ausencia de luz en la respuesta de la planta a condiciones de microgravedad simulada". Master de Biotecnología Agroforestal / Master in Agro-forest Biotechnology. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Supervisors: F.J. Medina & Malgorzata Ciska. Obtained qualification: 9. Date of reading: 09/2020.

Adela Villasante Fernández: "Effect of the volatile compounds produced by the phytopathogenic fungus Alternaria alternata on the growth and development of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings subjected to simulated microgravity conditions / Efecto de los compuestos volátiles producidos por el hongo fitopatógeno Alternaria alternata sobre el crecimiento y desarrollo de plántulas de Arabidopsis thaliana sometidas a condiciones de microgravedad simulada". Supervisors: F. Javier Medina & Raúl Herranz. Universidad Complutense de Madrid.  Qualification: 10. Date of reading: 10/2019.

Ludovico Sora: "A model for clinostat-induced functional microgravity on Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings". Supervisors: F. Javier Medina & Malgorzata Ciska. Politecnico Milano, School of Industrial and
Information Engineeering, Milan, Italy. Date of reading: 07/2018.

Ana Isabel O.S. Dias: "Effect of simulated microgravity on the cell cycle in cultured cells of Arabidopsis thaliana". Supervisors: F. Javier Medina & Malgorzata Ciska. Universidade do Minho, Braga, Portugal. Date of reading: 01/2018.

Aránzazu Manzano Pérez: "Effects of simulated microgravity on cell growth and proliferation and on gene expression in the Brassicaceae family / Efectos de la microgravedad simulada sobre el crecimiento y la proliferación celular y sobre la expresión génica en la familia Brassicaceae". Supervisors: F. Javier Medina & Raúl Herranz
Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Date of reading: 09/2013.