jeudi 28 juin 2018

Students Help Select Two of Four New Plants Heading to Space

ISS - International Space Station logo.

June 28, 2018

Four new varieties of plants are headed to the International Space Station on SpaceX CRS-15 for testing in the Veggie growth chamber. NASA researchers had help on this mission from middle and high school students who identified ‘Dragoon’ lettuce and ‘Extra Dwarf’ pak choi in experiments for the Growing Beyond Earth portion of The Fairchild Challenge. ‘Red Russian’ kale and ‘Wasabi’ mustard, along with ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce, which astronauts have already grown in space, round out the 18 plant growth pillows going to the station.

“We’re using Veggie to answer questions of science about the types of plants we can grow in space for astronauts to eat,” said Trent Smith, Veggie project manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “We want astronauts to be able to grow fresh food to supplement their diets.”

Image above: Students participate in Fairchild Challenge events held at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida. Photo Credits: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden/Maureen Tan.

NASA’s partnership with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Miami, Florida, has engaged thousands of students with the space program and taught them science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, skills through the citizen-science competition. The students construct and use a plant growth system that approximates conditions found in the Veggie growth chambers on the space station, such as having LED lighting and watering systems similar to the plant pillows. They followed research protocols to measure and record valuable data, which astronauts will put to the ultimate test in space.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens will expand on Growing Beyond Earth through a grant award it received earlier in June, from NASA’s Teams Engaging Affiliated Museums and Informal Institutions. The Growing Beyond Earth Innovation Studio will develop a makerspace in the botanic garden. By opening a research facility to the community, participants will have the opportunity to gain awareness of the importance of growing plants in space, while learning about botany and making contributions to data NASA uses.

Since launching to the station more than four years ago, Veggie has had a dual purpose of being both a scientific platform and a garden in space. Some of the experiments become scientific samples, while some of the harvests have fed astronauts fresh food grown in space.

Image above: Extra Dwarf Pak Choy and Wasabi plants are growing in a laboratory in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seeds from these and two other new varieties of plants will be delivered to the International Space Station on SpaceX's 15th Commercial Resupply Services mission. Photo Credits: NASA/Matt Romeyn.

This mission–VEG-03G, H, I–also is a bit unique compared to past Veggie missions because the four new crops specifically provide astronauts with vitamins B1, C, K and potassium, according to Matthew Romeyn, a plant researcher at Kennedy. The Human Research Program identified these nutrients because they are low in the packaged diet and degrade in prepacked foods stored for long periods. The Veggie experiments will continue to generate data on palatable food sources astronauts can replenish in space.

“The nutritional boost of fresh, nutritious food and the psychological benefits of growing plants become paramount as the agency plans for future missions to deep space destinations,” said Smith. “And having the Fairchild students participate is so exciting. These students stick with these long experiments throughout the semester showing they have the tenacity it takes to be scientists.”

Related links:


Growing Beyond Earth:

The Fairchild Challenge:


Fed astronauts fresh food:

Human Research Program:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Kennedy Space Center:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Linda Herridge/NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center, by Leejay Lockhart.


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