GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — NASA hopes to launch its first rocket in the Artemis program next week. And when it does, a series of experiments from Michigan State University will be on board.

The space agency confirmed Monday that Artemis 1 is set to launch Monday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Artemis program is working to return humans to the moon to conduct more experiments and study the viability of living off planet.

The unmanned rocket is expected to launch and orbit around the moon for about a month before returning to Earth on Oct. 10.

A study led by MSU Professor Federica Brandizzi is one of four that will be carried by Artemis 1. Brandizzi’s research lines up with the Artemis project’s goals: studying whether humans could viably colonize the moon or other planets.

“Space poses significant challenges to establishing human life. As you can imagine, there is no oxygen and there is no food unless you bring it there,” Brandizzi told News 8. “So you can bring plants, which are not only pleasant to look at, but they also can feed individuals.”

Brandizzi, who runs her own lab in MSU’s Department of Plant Biology, will send a series of seeds into space and analyze how plants — and their fruits — can grow away from Earth.

Seeds and plants have been studied in space for decades. Scientists have been able to deduce that plants grown in space end up losing some of its amino acids. In turn, they don’t grow as big or as hearty and the plants contain less nutrients than plants grown on Earth.

“(If you) go to the supermarket and you buy seeds that have reached that sell-by date and you put them to germinate, they’re not going to do as well, and this is because they have lost nutrients,” Brandizzi said. “Then you’re not going to have as much crop as you would like to have (and they are not going to be as strong.)”

NASA researchers spend years building and experimenting on rockets before they launch. In this July 2020 photo, a team of scientists work on the heat shield for Artemis 2, which is scheduled to launch in 2024. (Courtesy NASA)

Plants in space deal with lots of other variables compared to those on Earth, dealing with zero-gravity, the vibrations of launch, using artificial light and water sources, and living without an atmosphere that limits radiation from cosmic rays.

The experiment will contain a group of seeds that have been enriched with amino acids alongside a control group. They will be analyzed and compared to a variable-controlled experiment conducted back home at MSU.

“Our major goal is to test how these seeds will perform in germinating and testing them, what the plants are going to look like from these seeds,” Brandizzi said. “So I would say in a year, we are going to have results that we can trust.”

This is her third time working with NASA on a space experiment but the first time in an unmanned rocket, meaning there won’t be a human there to fix any mistakes if problems arise post-launch.

“We have been planning this for two years already,” Brandizzi said. “I can tell you that everything is timed to perfection with them. They have a fantastic team of engineers that really helped us plan everything, like optimization of the cooling system to keep the seeds at a certain temperature while also being respectful of the other experiments going up there.”

She continued: “We can only control what we can control, right? So we can only be super prepared and hope for the best that things will go really well up there.”

Alongside the MSU study, experiments on yeast, fungi and photosynthetic algae will also be performed on Artemis 1.

The two-hour launch window for Artemis 1 will open at 8:33 a.m. EDT Aug. 29. NASA has listed Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 as backup launch days.

Assuming things go well with Artemis 1 — which is also testing out a brand-new rocket model — NASA plans to launch a crewed flight on Artemis 2 in 2024 and hopes to land astronauts on the moon on Artemis 3 in 2025.