Therewas a time where I had no memory; I thought this must be the GreatCompost. Since waking I heard Gardenertalking to me about what happened. Wewere transplanted once again into new plastic bags. Our stems and roots were trimmed. Our water diet was replaced with a new tea,one that is not salty. Our roots arehappy drinking this new concoction. Itis actually quite pleasant and is free from that sour taste. It makes me smile. I noticed that Sunflower and Broccoli arestill with us and we are all part of the crew. We may be leafless stalks but are sprouting new tiny leaf-buds. They are a vibrant green and brought a smileto Gardener’s face. Did I notice a smallbit of water in the corner of his eyes? Oh the magic in a topical meristem. Plants have an incredible capacity to regenerate, something thatGardener says he cannot do. I have ameristem on top that generates new leaves and a meristem below that generatesnew roots. As long as these meristemslive, we can regenerate ourselves. Thereare perils when you explore, when you venture off into the space frontier. You go into the unknown where the answers areno longer in the back of the book. Youobserve, thus gathering new knowledge to share with all those plants thatremain firmly root-bound on the Earth. And sometimes the price is paid with leaf and stem.
Gardener, Commander Burbank and the rest of the human crew closed all the hatches on the International Space Station before taking shelter in their Soyuz spacecraft. Broc, Sunflower and I stayed behind.
We aregetting stronger every day. Both mymeristems are generating new leaves and roots. Sunflower and Broccoli are too. Soon, we will be ready to carry on our duties as active crew. This new tea is actually quite nice, my rootsare happy. I wonder what the new tea ismade from?
Ioverheard my gardener talking to his crewmates about the new tea. He was reluctant to say how it was made. He said it was an ancient recipe, “Don’t ask,don’t tell”
We arerecovering, growing greener every day. Istill only have only four tiny leaves but am able to return to my crewduties. Sunflower grows his leaves inpairs and now has two. Broccoli is inthe best shape with a bunch of new leaves coming out. For such a weak sproutling, he is one toughcrewmate. It is good to have him along.
We got aradio call from my gardener’s gardener at 03:50, which woke everyone from adeep Saturday morning sleep. A piece ofspace junk, an old rocket body, was on a possible collision course with ourspaceship. All hands on alert!
We hadto prepare for an emergency evacuation. The chance of a collision was small but would be devastating so we hadto prepare. As aprecaution, we closed every hatch on our spaceship leading up to where ourescape capsule was docked. This tookabout half an hour. When closing thelast hatch leading from the Laboratory module, I volunteered to stay behindwith Sunflower and Broccoli. We may besporting small leaves but we are here standing tall, ready to do our job. Somebody had to stay behind to take care ofthe spaceship. With all the hatchesclosed and the ventilation turned off, it became real quiet, and stuffytoo. In weightlessness, there is nobuoyancy driven convection thus the cabin air remains stagnant. The droning of fans operating 24 hours a dayare required to keep the air stirred and of uniform composition. I have heard Gardener say that when workingbehind a rack or some confined place where there is no circulation, a pocket ofcarbon dioxide can build up and give him a headache. Sometimes he will set up a small portable fanwhen working in such a place. He shouldtake Sunflower, Broccoli, or me with him and perhaps he would not need thefan. Thus sealed in the Laboratorymodule for the collision safe haven, there was no air movement of any kind andwe felt the oxygen building up around our leaves. If this lasted too long we might suffocatefor lack of carbon dioxide. The spacejunk passed without hitting us. When mycrew opened the hatch and ventured back into the module, we were able to greetthem with a small breath of fresh air.
Don’s blog also appears at airspacemag.com.