Monday, February 9, 2009

Try This At Home

Well, this will teach me to keep an eye on my "Drafts." I had been working on this post the day we evacuated, lost track of it over time, but just found it again! On the afternoon we left Galveston Island ahead of Hurricane Ike, we rose from bed, wobbly at best, and waited to be called down to the line of ambulances taking patients to other areas of Texas. We took final photos of the seed project, knowing that we had to leave them behind...

Compliments of NASA Engineering Design Challenge (EDC), Seeds In Space is a fun experiment to educate folks about how plant growth will be an important part of future space exploration on longer-duration missions.

Space Shuttle Endeavor carried 10 million cinnamon basil seeds to the ISS, then back to Earth in August 2007 where they were given to South Carolina's Park Seed Company. Will microgravity have an effect on how they grow? Radiation? Temperature changes?

We raised a set of space seeds, and also a control group that had not flown in space. Here we are holding both sets just before evacuation. And, since we don't have time to paint ceiling tiles as past participants did, one of the project heads asked us to sign a Mars card to hang on the wall... "Three Amigos Were Here," LOL...

Excerpt from SuccessWithSeed.Org --
"Researchers will study effects of extreme temperature and radiation on the seeds. Extra doses of radiation may be beneficial to farmers, who welcome greater probability of seed mutations that may mean hardier breeds of plants. Fluctuations in temperatures, on the other hand, might take their toll. This experiment provides ground rules for the future transport of food in space. NASA scientists anticipate that astronauts may be able to grow plants on the moon, and these may be used to supplement meals."

NASA space seeds
To see more details of the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber and/or order your own seed packets, go to the Education section of the NASA website and click on "Join The Challenge."

Since I originally constructed this post, the seed challenge partners temporarily suspended operations, so the "Join" link simply has a sign up for email alerts for when they are back in business. Pity, since the majority of requests came from schools, and we're always looking for ways to get kids excited about science! I'll check on it from time to time, and re-post if I see them start up again...