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.

Dragon Cargo Spacecraft Berthed to Station

Two days after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Monday, May 6, at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

The 17th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-17) delivered more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with about 4,200 pounds of cargo and research.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Dragon Spacecraft Captured at 7:01 a.m. EDT

While the International Space Station was traveling over the north Atlantic Ocean, astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA grappled Dragon at 7:01 a.m. EDT using the space station’s robotic arm Canadarm2.

Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.

The Dragon lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Saturday, May 4 with more than 5,500 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Here’s some of the research arriving at station:

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) examines the complex dynamics of Earth’s atmospheric carbon cycle by collecting measurements to track variations in a specific type of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Understanding carbon sources can aid in forecasting increased atmospheric heat retention and reduce its long-term risks.

The Photobioreactor investigation aims to demonstrate how microalgae can be used together with existing life support systems on the space station to improve recycling of resources. The cultivation of microalgae for food, and as part of a life support system to generate oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, could be helpful in future long-duration exploration missions, as it could reduce the amount of consumables required from Earth.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

CRS-17 Liftoff No Earlier Than Friday, May 3, at 3:11 EDT

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Friday, May 3, for the launch of the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 3:11 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units (MBSU) that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station. There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station.

Flight controllers are scheduled to perform a series of maneuvers to robotically swap the failed MSBU for a spare on Wednesday, May 1 and Thursday, May 2. After the swap is complete, flight controllers will conduct a series of checkouts on the newly installed MBSU and take steps to return the station to full power capability to support SpaceX capture and berthing.

SpaceX CRS-17 Launch No Earlier Than Friday, May 3

CRS-17 is SpaceX's 17th Commercial Resupply Services Mission to the International Space Station. It will launch from from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station no earlier than Friday, May 3. Photo credit: SpaceX image
CRS-17 is SpaceX’s 17th Commercial Resupply Services Mission to the International Space Station. It will launch from from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station no earlier than Friday, May 3. Photo credit: SpaceX image

NASA has requested SpaceX move off from May 1 for the launch of the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station. There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. Teams are working on a plan to robotically replace the failed unit and restore full power to the station system. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. The earliest possible launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, May 3.

SpaceX Targeting Wednesday, May 1 at 3:59 EDT for CRS-17 Launch

The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during SpaceX’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station on Dec. 5, 2018. SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, May 1, at 3:59 EDT for its CRS-17 mission launch. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during SpaceX’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station on Dec. 5, 2018. SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, May 1, at 3:59 EDT for its CRS-17 mission launch. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s commercial cargo provider SpaceX is targeting 3:59 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 1, for the launch of its 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station after successful completion of its static fire engine test. Packed with more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Follow along with the coverage of the SpaceX CRS-17 mission with prelaunch events on NASA Television and at www.nasa.gov/live.

  • Monday, April 29 at 10:30 a.m. — What’s On Board science briefing
  • Tuesday, April 30 at 1 p.m. — Prelaunch news conference
  • Wednesday, May 1 at 3:30 a.m. — NASA TV launch coverage

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

Employees Gain Insight During Earth Day Lunch and Learns

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Jeff Sidor presents information on FWC’s Port K9 Program to Kennedy Space Center employees in the Space Station Processing Facility Conference Center on April 23, 2019 with FWC K9 Harry.
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Jeff Sidor presents information on FWC’s Port K9 Program to Kennedy Space Center employees in the Space Station Processing Facility Conference Center on April 23, 2019. Officer Sidor brought a special K9, Harry, to demonstrate how FWC is using specially trained dogs in airports, seaports and mail facilities to detect illegal and invasive fish and wildlife species shipping into Florida. The demonstration involved Harry distinguishing which box, among many, contained a turtle shell. This lunch and learn was available for employees to attend as part of Kennedy’s Earth Day events. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Two lunch and learns, held April 23 and April 24 in support of Earth Day, provided Kennedy Space Center employees with the opportunity to learn more about wildlife and protecting our planet’s natural environment.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Port K9 Harry demonstrates how FWC is using specially trained dogs in airports, seaports, and mail facilities to detect illegal and invasive fish and wildlife species shipping into Florida.
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Port K9 Harry demonstrates how FWC is using specially trained dogs in airports, seaports, and mail facilities to detect illegal and invasive fish and wildlife species shipping into Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Jeff Sidor brought a K9, Harry, for a demonstration on how FWC is using specially trained dogs in airports, seaports and mail facilities to detect illegal and invasive fish and wildlife species shipping into Florida. Since the program’s inception in 2012, it has now grown to include 12 investigators and five canines.

Canine Harry went through about an 18-week training program in which he learned to detect six different odors. He can alert on saltwater, conch, lobster, reptiles, red snapper filets and ivory, and he has been a part of the program for three-and-a-half years.

Officer Sidor has three years left in the program before he plans to retire with Harry. “It’s the best thing that I’ve done,” he said. “It’s amazing. The dog is awesome, and we’re going to retire together.”

Sally Scalera, urban horticulture agent and master gardener coordinator from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Brevard Extension Office, shows Kennedy Space Center employees some sustainable yard products available during her presentation on tips and tricks for a healthy yard and garden on April 24, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston
Sally Scalera, urban horticulture agent and master gardener coordinator from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Brevard Extension Office, shows Kennedy Space Center employees some sustainable yard products available during her presentation on tips and tricks for a healthy yard and garden on April 24, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Also available for employees was a presentation on Florida-friendly landscaping. Sally Scalera, urban horticulture agent and master gardener coordinator from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Brevard Extension Office, shared some sustainable tips and tricks for a healthy yard and garden.

The first step is ensuring your soil is healthy, which in turn will help with water quality and produce healthy plants. Scalera covered multiple ways to increase soil health, including utilizing organic yard matter – such as leaves, twigs and grass clippings – as an alternative to purchasing compost, growing a variety of plants together for the different root systems to provide food for the soil, and using organic fertilizer as much as possible, among others.

Integrating sustainable landscaping practices and choosing the right plants for Florida’s environment can help protect our water resources from pollution, reduce overall water consumption and decrease the amount of fertilizer and pesticides needed for plant life to thrive.

The presentations held at Kennedy further promoted environmental awareness at the Florida spaceport and educated employees on a number of changes we can apply to further protect our home planet.

Columbia ‘Relaunch’ Aims to Inspire, Educate

Evelyn Husband Thompson, widow of STS-107 Commander Rick Husband, speaks to NASA civil service and contractor employees and guests in Kennedy Space Center’s Training Auditorium on April 12, 2019. Husband Thompson was one of the presenters for “Columbia: The Mission Continues,” an event organized by the Apollo Challenger Columbia Lessons Learned Program (ACCLLP).
Evelyn Husband Thompson, widow of STS-107 Commander Rick Husband, speaks to NASA civil service and contractor employees and guests in Kennedy Space Center’s Training Auditorium on April 12, 2019. Husband Thompson was one of the presenters for “Columbia: The Mission Continues,” an event organized by the Apollo Challenger Columbia Lessons Learned Program (ACCLLP). Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Veteran space reporter John Zarrella, left, moderates a “Lessons of Columbia” discussion with former space shuttle launch directors Mike Leinbach, center, and Bob Sieck in Kennedy Space Center’s Training Auditorium on April 12, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

The space shuttle Columbia national tour launched at Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 2019, embarking on an educational journey that will take the program to all 10 NASA centers throughout the country.

Apollo Challenger Columbia Lessons Learned Program (ACCLLP) Manager Mike Ciannilli was the master of ceremonies for “Columbia: The Mission Continues,” an event that featured remarks from NASA senior managers and astronaut Shane Kimbrough, a “Lessons of Columbia” discussion with former space shuttle launch directors Bob Sieck and Mike Leinbach, multimedia presentations and a powerful speech by Evelyn Husband Thompson, widow of STS-107 Commander Rick Husband.

Kelvin Manning, Kennedy Space Center associate director, technical, delivers opening remarks for “Columbia: The Mission Continues." The event took place on the 38th anniversary of STS-1, the first orbital spaceflight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.
Kelvin Manning, Kennedy Space Center associate director, technical, delivers opening remarks for “Columbia: The Mission Continues.” The event took place on the 38th anniversary of STS-1, the first orbital spaceflight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The event was held on the 38th anniversary of STS-1, April 12, 1981, the first orbital spaceflight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

“We are returning Columbia back to flight on a new mission to inspire, educate and powerfully share the invaluable lessons learned from the past to help bring us successfully into the future,” said Kennedy Associate Director, Technical, Kelvin Manning, who delivered the opening remarks.

The tour includes an exhibit of nine Columbia artifacts, which are on display in the lobby of Kennedy’s old Headquarters building through April 23, and training from APPEL Knowledge Services. The exhibit, APPEL training and a centerwide event focusing on lessons learned all will be a part of the traveling program.

An edited version of the “Columbia: The Mission Continues” event will be released in the near future. To learn more about the space shuttle Columbia national tour, listen to Episode 7 of the podcast “Small Steps, Giant Leaps,” available on the following platforms:

Google Play: Small Steps, Giant Leaps on Google Play

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.