Raise your hand high if you like Citizen Science!
Citizen science is science for everyone. Citizen science is when the public voluntarily helps conduct scientific research. Citizen scientists may design experiments, collect data, analyze results, and solve problems while working or collaborating with the scientists here on the Earth or in some cases, the International Space Station!
How cool is that?
Did you know that four new varieties of plants headed to the International Space Station on SpaceX CRS-15 (in 2018) for testing in the Veggie growth chamber?
Well, I didn’t. I have learned that NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration researchers had help on this mission from middle and high school students across the nation who identified ‘Dragoon’ lettuce and ‘Extra Dwarf’ pak choi in experiments through the Growing Beyond Earth (GBE) program in Miami, FL. ‘Red Russian’ kale and ‘Wasabi’ mustard, along with ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce, which astronauts have already grown in space, rounded out the 18 plant growth pillows that went to the station.
NASA’s partnership with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Miami, Florida, has engaged thousands of students with the space program and taught them STEM skills through the citizen-science competition.
The students constructed and used a plant growth system that approximates conditions found in the Veggie growth chambers on the space station, such as having LED lighting and watering systems similar to the plant pillows. They followed research protocols to measure and record valuable data, which astronauts put to the ultimate test in space.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens continues to expand on its GBE program through a new/continuing grant it received from NASA. The GBE Innovation Studio, funded through the grant, has developed a makerspace in the botanic garden. By opening a research facility to the community, participants will have the opportunity to gain awareness of the importance of growing plants in space, while learning about botany and making contributions to data NASA uses.
After all, the astronauts got to eat fresh, nutritious, and healthy “home-grown” food too.
And why are we so excited? Well, because we are evaluating the program over the next three years.
And (continue to) eat your greens, everyone.