Thursday, November 14, 2019
US flag

Student science experiments going to space station

In June, 21 high school science projects will travel to the International Space Station, including a project involving phytoplankton from De’Aunte Johnson, Tailor Davis, and Binti Mohamed at East High School in Rochester, New York, PBS News Hour reports.

“As the United States and other countries move forward with space exploration, the idea eventually is to be able to establish colonies, either on the moon, other planets, right?” said Mary Courtney, a chemistry teacher at the high school. “And so you have got to be able when you’re—if you’re on Mars, you have got to be able to produce food.”

On Earth, students at the high school have been working with a spectrophotometer and adjusting the mixture in which the tiny plant organisms will live while they’re in space without any oxygen. The purpose is to determine how to keep cells alive during long exploratory missions deeper into space than we’ve ever gone and to help astronauts understand how they can grow their own food in space or on distant planets.

NASA will also send another new, nearly self-sufficient plant growth system to the ISS, which will join Veggie later this month aboard the space station. Veggie is NASA’s first fresh food growth system, and it’s already active on the ISS.

The new one is called the Advanced Plant Habitat, and astronauts aboard the ISS will use it to conduct plant bioscience research on the space station, NASA told Business Standard.

The system uses more than 180 sensors to send real-time information—temperature, oxygen content, moisture levels in the air and soil, near the plant roots, and at the stem and leaf level, etc.—back to the team at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“A big difference in this system, compared to Veggie, is that it requires minimal crew involvement to install the science, add water, and perform other maintenance activities,” the magazine quoted Bryan Onate, project manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, as saying.

The agency is now under pressure following budget cuts by President Donald Trump, to focus its resources more on its science mission and less on its climate change work.

Senator Harrison Schmitt, PhD, the lunar module pilot for NASA’s Apollo 17, recently wrote that a possible mission to Mars could easily be successful, given the success of the Apollo missions, which ultimately took Americans to the moon, nearly five decades ago.

“Congress should commit, as best it can, to an annual, inflation-adjusted funding level for the Moon-Mars-Deep Space Program that would insure the achievement of specific milestones as well as a permanent geopolitical commitment to deep space exploration,” he wrote to the US House Subcommittee on Space of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology last month.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.

A band teacher is IL Teacher of the Year

IL named a band teacher the 2020 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 19. He individualizes music instruction and shares his work with 1000s.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ bookends Halloween

Several high schools have decided to add a little spook to their musical stages in this season of Halloween. Music makes it happen.

New IL law ensures inclusion of LGBTQ+

A law will take effect next school year in IL that will require students to study LGBTQ history as part of the social studies curriculum.

MoCo doubles down on summer learning loss

Research is at least equivocal about summer learning loss, but maybe there's something to a new plan in Montgomery County, Md.

Downers North lights up the gym for Beth

Ongoing fundraising drives for a Downers Grove N. volleyball player killed by an intoxicated driver in Feb. are going strong in this western suburb.

High-payroll Yankees don’t make World Series

The World Series begins Tuesday, but some of the playoff games can teach us valuable things about youth sports, investment, etc.

Chicago teacher strike enters calendar week 2

Chicago teachers strike for the 3rd day Monday; the union wants smaller class sizes and support for paraprofessionals.