Seeds in Space (Seeds) - 09.17.14

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ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
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Science Results for Everyone

Seeds in Space aims to make science fun while demonstrating the influence of gravity on germination and growth of plants. Kits were distributed one month before launch to schools in the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, and the Dutch Antilles. Students compared growth of seeds on Earth with those grown onboard the space station, which they observed through a live video downlink from orbit. In space, plants in the dark grew in all directions, while those in the light all grew toward the light. Participants concluded that light or gravity help plants know in which direction to grow, and the absence of both appear to confuse the plants.

The following content was provided by Jack J.W.A van Loon, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Information provided courtesy of the Erasmus Experiment Archive.

Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)

  • Jack J.W.A van Loon, ACTA-Free University, Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
  • Koen A. P. Weterings, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands

  • Developer(s)
    ACTA University, Amsterdam, IL, Netherlands

    Sponsoring Space Agency
    European Space Agency (ESA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    Information Pending

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    October 2003 - October 2004

    Expeditions Assigned

    Previous ISS Missions
    Information Pending

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview
    Information Pending

    The main goal of this student experiment is to involve as many students as possible in and effort to show that science is fun through a plant growth experiment called Seeds in Space. The educational / scientific objectives of the experiment are: To demonstrate the influence of gravity on the germination and growth of plants to young people (10 to 15 year olds) and others. By engaging in the comparable on-ground experiment, students will experience that science is fun and that the weightless environment of space opens new possibilities. The experiment kit will be distributed one month before launch to schools or other distribution channels.

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    Space Applications
    Information Pending

    Earth Applications
    Information Pending

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    Operational Requirements
    Information Pending

    Operational Protocols
    The main purpose of this education/ demonstration experiment is to clearly show that plants respond to gravity by a directed growth (experiments on ground) and that they will show a non-preferential or disoriented growth direction when grown in the dark in weightlessness. The in-flight part of the experiment will consist of folding rockets with simple plant growth chambers in which Rucola seeds germinate either with or without light. Crew will setup the growth chamber, initiating seed germination by watering the seeds on the supporting filter paper using a standard 30-ml needleless syringe with luer lock stopcock. Crew will monitor the growth once a day. Since there is no in-flight experience with the proposed plants (species Rucola, rocket lettuce), we require three sets of cultures to be initiated on three consecutive days in flight. The duration for one plant culture is expected to be 3-4 days. Depending on the date and time for the live in flight call we need to initiate the seed germination 3, 4 and 5 days before. The best of the 3 sets will be used for the live video-audio connection.

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    Results/More Information


    Within The Netherlands, some 80,000 students participated, representing 15% of the population in the age group of 10-14 years old. In addition, another 80,000 German pupils, a few local schools in the Moscow-Koroljov area and some in the Dutch Antilles also participated in the Seeds in Space experiment. Considering these numbers, it can be concluded that Seeds in Space was a very successful educational project and might be considered for future space flight missions. The Dutch schoolchildren simulataneously started the Seeds in Space experiment on 22 April 2004 by planting their seeds in a rocket-shaped kit.  After four days they compared the growth of their seeds with those of Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers' on board the International Space Station. Kuipers opened his 'growing rocket' during a live video downlink from the International Space Station. The plants in the dark chamber had grown in all directions. In space the seedlings in the light chamber had grown larger and were greener, and they had all grown towards the same direction - towards the light. The children who participated made conclusions about the experiment. The conclusion of Seeds:  light or gravity help plants to know in which direction to grow. In the absence of both, the plants get confused. The result of the Seeds experiment showed schoolchildren how scientific research is undertaken, and contributes to space travel in the future. If astronauts are to go on longer space missions in the future, say to the Moon, or even to Mars, they will know the best way to grow their food.


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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

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    Related Websites
    ESA Erasmus Experiment Archive

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    image Seeds folding rocket
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