What plants should be grown in the Veggie growth chamber onboard the International Space Station? NASA is asking students for help with the decision.
NASA has partnered with the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Miami, Florida over the past couple years through an educational program called The Fairchild Challenge to help determine which crops might be good to grow onboard the ISS. Students use equipment that mimics conditions on the space station to grow plants and test factors that could influence the growth, nutrition, and the taste of the produce. NASA uses results from the students’ experiments to decide which plants to grow on the ISS.
Students can also learn about plant research on the ISS through the Tomatosphere™ program, operated by First the Seed Foundation and supported by the ISS National Lab. The Tomatosphere program allows K-12 students grow and study tomato seeds that were exposed to spaceflight conditions onboard the ISS National Lab. Each participating classroom receives two packages of tomato seeds—one with seeds that have flown in space and one with “control” seeds that stayed on Earth—but the students do not know which package is which. The students plant both sets of seeds and compare the plants as they grow. The program has recently entered a new phase in which sensors monitor the environmental conditions (temperature, pressure, and humidity) of the seeds as they travel to space and back. More than 24,000 classrooms participate in the Tomatosphere program each year, which amounts to more than 500,000 students!
Check out other ways students can connect with the ISS National Lab at spacestationexplorers.org!