Education Payload Operations - Kit C: Plant Growth Chambers (EPO-Kit C) - 11.22.16

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Education Payload Operations - Kit C Plant Growth Chambers (EPO-Kit C) is an on-orbit plant growth investigation using basil seeds. The still and video imagery acquired will be used as part of a national engineering design challenge for students in grades K-12. Students will grow basil seeds (control and flown seeds) to conduct their own science experiments on plant growth using growth chambers created by the students on the ground.
Science Results for Everyone
Things can get spicy in space. Cinnamon basil seeds were grown for 20 days aboard the International Space Station. Similar seeds were grown in classrooms around the country in growth chambers that students created themselves. Students compared the growth of their seeds with those in space using still images and video from the station. The seeds germinated and grew in microgravity, although toward the end of the experiment, the plants appeared to deteriorate from excessive watering. This project taught students about the engineering design process and how to conduct a scientific experiment. Video is available at

The following content was provided by Jonathan Neubauer, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Jonathan Neubauer, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

Information Pending

Information Pending

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
NASA Education (EDU)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2007 - October 2007

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Expedition 15 will be the first mission for EPO-Kit C.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • EPO-Kit C is designed to increase the enthusiasm of students to pursue careers in sciences.

  • On video, crewmembers will discuss plant growth from basil seeds in space and discuss the differences between plants grown on Earth and in space.

  • Following return to Earth, the video will be edited and used for demonstrations to support curriculum materials that will be distributed to educators across the United States.

The excitement of space exploration is a sure way to catch the attention of students of all ages, and space biology is one of many sciences critical to understanding the space flight environment. However, many systems used in the past for space-to-classroom biology activities have required extensive crew time and material resources, making space-linked education logistically and financially difficult. The new Educational Payload Operations - Kit C (EPO-Kit C), however, aimed to overcome some of the obstacles to space-linked education and outreach by dramatically reducing the resources required to conduct educational activities in plant space biology with a true space flight component.

EPO-Kit C was originally developed as the Astro Garden, a miniature hobby garden designed for growing flowers, herbs, and small vegetable plants on orbit. The kit required minimal resources, allowing its use for educational opportunities. Illumination is achieved via environmental lighting on the space shuttle or space station and watering is conducted manually via drink bags. Stowage of the entire kit requires less than 700 cm3; the garden itself could fit in a large pants pocket.

The EPO-Kit C experiment supported the Educator Astronaut in her mission in orbit. Launched in 2004, the Educator Astronaut Project (EAP) exemplifies NASA's commitment to inspiring and motivating students and educators on a national scale. The program does this through a series of activities and initiatives based on astronaut training and the excitement of space flight.

On orbit, crewmembers captured video of the transfer of two, small collapsible growth chambers for EPO-Kit C. The video included a discussion of the growth chambers by the crewmembers and will be used during Phase I and Phase II of the national engineering design challenge. The video will be distributed to education organizations to be incorporated into education products for students in grades K-12. Crewmembers also conducted a 20-day on orbit plant growth investigation using basil and lettuce seeds. The plant growth inside the growth chambers were documented with still digital imagery.

EPO-Kit C aimed to inspire students to look at engineering, science, technology and mathematics as future career paths. The EPO-Kit C investigations focused on inquiry-based learning; ground-based investigations were performed by students. Students are also involved in design challenges that are directly tied to the payload. Part of this payload also developed activities for teachers, creating lesson plans for students K-12 and providing a website that will contain the data collection information.

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Space Applications
The participation of the students in the design processes for the EPO-Kit C activities is preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Earth Applications
Using a new approach in the classroom on space flight, science, and mathematics will capture the imagination of students. Allowing students to participate in activities that directly involve NASA will inspire them to pursue careers in science and engineering.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
EPO-Kit C will use video and digital still photography to capture data of payload activities on orbit. Part of this payload will take place in ground-based investigations that are designed and completed by students in classrooms.
The Educator Astronaut will perform on-orbit educational activities that will be provided to teachers and students in the form of video for classroom use.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

The EPO-Kit C, 20-day in orbit plant growth investigation was successful. The cinnamon basil seeds germinated in the microgravity environment and had some growth during the short investigation. Toward the end of the experiment, the plants appeared to have received more water than needed, causing them to slowly deteriorate. When the 20 days were up, the growth chambers were collapsed and prepared for their trip home on STS-120.

Through the EPO-Kit C investigation, nearly 1 million students in grades K-12 have participated in the NASA Engineering Design Challenge Lunar Plant Growth Chamber. This engineering design challenge asks students to design, build and evaluate a plant growth chamber for future missions to the Moon. Students learn about the engineering design process and how to conduct a scientific experiment. To get involved in this activity and to see video captured during EPO-Kit C and EPO-Educator visit (Evans et al. 2009)

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Related Websites
STS-118 Education Resources
NASA Engineering Design Challenge - Lunar Plant Growth Chamber
Science@NASA - Basil Orbits Earth

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image Basil plants grown from seeds, on Earth, in a simple plant growth chamber (opened). Image courtesy of Johnson Space Center.
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image Basil plants grown from seeds, on Earth, in a simple plant growth chamber (closed). Image courtesy of Johnson Space Center.
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