Students Show off Plant Research at Symposium in Miami

Trent Smith, left, and Gioia Massa give a talk on Veggie at the Student Research Symposium in Miami on April 27, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis
Trent Smith, left, and Gioia Massa give a talk on Veggie at the Student Research Symposium in Miami on April 27, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis

By Rachel Cox
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Students from around the country convened with NASA scientists in Miami for the Student Research Symposium on April 27 as part of the Growing Beyond Earth program, a partnership between NASA and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Growing Beyond Earth is an educational outreach and citizen science program that reaches over 170 middle and high schools from Florida, Colorado and Puerto Rico. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center plant production scientists Gioia Massa and Trent Smith train teachers, who then receive plant growth chambers that mimic Veggie, the space garden residing on the International Space Station.

Students and teachers listen to Ray Wheeler discuss the history of plant research for space. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis
Students and teachers listen to Ray Wheeler discuss the history of plant research for space. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis

In the fall, students set up their plant growth chambers and conduct experiments designed by Fairchild in conjunction with Kennedy.

“Every year, it’s something different,” Massa explained. “Last year, they were looking at photoperiod, how plants respond to different durations of light. This year, they’re looking at the neighbor effect, how different plants influence each other by growing next to each other.”

Since the beginning of the program, students have tested approximately 130 plant varieties under different conditions. Some schools are in high humidity areas, like Puerto Rico, while others have low humidity, like Colorado. Sometimes students overwater their plants; other times they forget. Sometimes the power goes out over the weekend. Plants that do well across these different environments make good candidates for space.

Both middle and high schools participate in new crop testing. But after getting a good grasp on the system in the fall, high school students can take it a step further and design independent experiments in the spring. These projects were the focus of the Miami symposium; 34 high schools presented their independent research, plus 17 middle schools presented their work on new crop testing.

“We had the students testing some really creative things,” Massa said. One project looked at using nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the substrate. Another 3D printed different containers.

The students created scientific posters, just like a NASA scientist would for a conference, with sections for the abstract, introduction, materials, results, conclusion and references. Fairchild printed out the posters, and the students presented them. Then Massa and her colleagues judged them on their poster, the quality of their project and presentation, the significance to NASA and how well they understood it.

Twelve Kennedy employees supported the event, including Bryan Onate, chief of the Life Sciences and Utilization Division, and Josie Burnett, director of Exploration Research and Technology Programs, along with plant production scientists and interns. Massa, Smith and Ray Wheeler gave talks to the students about Veggie and plant space research.

SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon Launch on Resupply Mission to International Space Station

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft on the company's 17th mission to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station
Image credit: NASA TV

Dragon successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:48 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying more than 5,500 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the International Space Station.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

SpaceX CRS-17 Launch Updates

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule await liftoff on CRS-17
Image credit: NASA TV

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft stand ready for a second launch attempt today on the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Liftoff is targeted for 2:48 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with an instantaneous launch window. Join us on NASA’s launch blog and on NASA Television beginning at 2:30 a.m. for updates from the countdown.

NASA on the Air

Ham radio operator Choke E29AHU from Thailand shared this photo on Twitter of his 2-year-old daughter participating in the event. Photo credit: Twitter user @chokelive
Ham radio operator Choke E29AHU from Thailand shared this photo on Twitter of his 2-year-old daughter Porjai participating in the event. Photo credit: Chokeumnuay Khowsakool

By Rachel Cox
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

In a surprising and touching turnout, tens of thousands of people around the world turned on their ham (or amateur) radios to participate in several “NASA on the Air” events held over the past year.

“This was a beautiful thing,” said Kevin Zari, head of the amateur radio club at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Zari especially loved the event photos tweeted by people from different countries.

Radio clubs from 10 NASA centers and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, all supported the yearlong event. Ham radio operators tuned in from all 50 U.S. states and 56 countries across six continents to chat with NASA personnel.

“There were times in our log where we had 20 contacts a minute — it was that quick. And there were other more relaxed times, where we were able to just sit and talk,” Zari said. “I don’t know how many times people said, ‘We thought NASA was gone. We thought NASA was dead.’ So we educated people around the world.”

The NASA on the Air event wrapped up with three special opportunities for people to use their radios to download images from the International Space Station. This was done in coordination with Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), an international consortium of amateur radio organizations and space agencies. ARISS encourages young people to explore science, technology, engineering and math through the use of ham radios, and their program works to connect students worldwide with astronauts onboard the space station.

For the final three events, cosmonauts on the station transmitted several NASA on the Air images from space. Participants could compete to collect images and upload them to a website for credit. Over 34,600 uploads were received from 18,619 participants.

The reaction to NASA on the Air was so positive, NASA Radio Clubs plans to activate NASA on the Air for special anniversaries in 2019 and beyond (e.g. 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11). Follow @NASARadioClubs on Twitter or join the NASA on the Air (NOTA) group on Facebook for notifications of future activities.

Plant Experiment Veg-03 H Initiated on Space Station

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques began growing two new crops aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques initiated plant experiment Veg-03 H aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019. This required Saint-Jacques to add water to “plant pillows,” which are space pots for plants that contain pre-packed seeds, granular media for the roots to grow into, controlled-release fertilizer, and a way for the on-orbit gardeners to water their plants in microgravity. The experiment should take 30 days to complete and will provide data on food safety for the new crops to compare to ground studies in order to establish a baseline.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques began growing two new crops aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The two crops, Wasabi Mustard Greens and Extra Dwarf Pak Choi, are part of experiment Veg-03 H. Saint-Jacques placed six “plant pillows” into the veggie growth chamber. This experiment is part of ongoing research on the space station and on Earth to identify fresh vegetables capable of providing astronauts food and nutrition during long-duration spaceflight, including future missions to the Moon or Mars.

Each pillow serves as a pot designed for space with pre-packed seeds, a substance for the roots to grow into, controlled-release fertilizer, and a way for the in-orbit gardeners to water their plants in microgravity.

High school and middle school students participating in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Growing beyond Earth Challenge identified Extra Dwarf Pak Choi as a potential candidate crop for space through classroom science experiments, along with Dragoon Lettuce, which NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor grew on the station last fall. Using science stations designed to mimic conditions on the space station gave students a chance to grow plants and record data that NASA was able to use. Those experiments culminated in the plant species which launched to the space station aboard the 15th SpaceX cargo resupply mission on June 29, 2018, along with three other plant species.

The experiment should take 30 days to complete and will provide data on food safety for the new crops to compare to ground studies in order to establish a baseline.

“I think the astronauts will be surprised to learn that the Extra Dwarf Pak Choi that they grow and eat has the same amount of Vitamin C by weight as does a fresh Florida orange,” said NASA scientist Matt Romeyn, “and the leaves don’t taste much different than other fresh leafy greens.”

Demo-1 Concludes With Crew Dragon Splashdown

The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast, returning from the uncrewed Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station and the company’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The mission, known as Demo-1, is a critical step for NASA and SpaceX to demonstrate the ability to safely fly missions with NASA astronauts to the orbital laboratory.

The Crew Dragon launched March 2 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station and autonomously dock to the station. To complete the docking, both the station and Crew Dragon’s adapters used the new international docking standard.

Crew Dragon is returning to Earth some critical research samples from science investigations conducted to enable human exploration farther into space and develop and demonstrate in the U.S. ISS National Laboratory new technologies, treatments, and products for improving life on Earth.

Also traveling aboard the spacecraft is an anthropomorphic test device named Ripley outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in Crew Dragon.

SpaceX’s recovery ship, Go Searcher, is equipped with a crane to lift Crew Dragon out of the water and onto the main deck of the ship within an hour after splashdown.

NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to review the systems and flight data to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts. Already planned upgrades, additional qualification testing, and an in-flight abort test will occur before NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will climb aboard for Demo-2, the crewed flight test to the International Space Station that is necessary to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

Demo-1 Underway: Crew Dragon Launches on Debut Flight

Image credit: NASA TV

The Demo-1 uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station, SpaceX’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, is underway following the successful launch Saturday morning of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. The first-of-its-kind mission, planned to be a full demonstration of the spacecraft and its systems, launched on time at 2:49 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in

In addition to 400 pounds of supplies and equipment, Crew Dragon is carrying Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device outfitted with sensors to gather important data about what an astronaut flying aboard the spacecraft would experience throughout the mission.

Crew Dragon will carry out a series of phasing maneuvers as it pursues the space station during approach. The spacecraft is scheduled to autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory tomorrow morning, March 3, at about 6 a.m. EST, and remain docked until approximately 2:30 a.m. on Friday, March 8. Crew Dragon is expected to return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m., a little more than six hours after departing the space station.

Demo-1 Launch Information

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen illuminated on the launch pad by spotlights at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission, Friday, March 1, 2019, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen illuminated on the launch pad by spotlights at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission, Friday, March 1, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA and SpaceX are preparing for the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on the Demo-1 uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. Liftoff from Launch Complex 39A is targeted for 2:49 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 2. This is the first launch of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership on a flight test to the International Space Station.

Follow the countdown on NASA TV and the Launch Blog on Saturday starting at 2 a.m.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Weather Forecast Remains 80 Percent ‘Go’ for Demo-1; Prelaunch Briefing Set for Thursday

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A

Three days remain until the planned liftoff of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket—the first launch of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and space system designed for humans. Liftoff is targeted for 2:49 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 2, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station serves as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities.

The launch weather forecast continues to look promising; meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather at launch time. Thick clouds or cumulus clouds that would violate launch requirements are the primary weather concerns.

NASA will host a prelaunch briefing at Kennedy at 4 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 28. The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA TV. See the full briefings and events schedule, including briefing participants, at https://go.nasa.gov/2GBCB5A.

The Commercial Crew Press Kit is now online! View it here: https://go.nasa.gov/2GNyYdd

SpaceX Demo-1 Launch Update

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A and went vertical for a dry run to prep for the upcoming Demo-1 flight test.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A and went vertical for a dry run to prep for the upcoming Demo-1 flight test. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are continuing to work on the activities leading toward the Demo-1, uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews. NASA and SpaceX will confirm a new target date after coordination with the Eastern Range and the International Space Station Program.