NanoRacks-Wheaton Academy-Resurrection Plant Growth Experiment in Microgravity (NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth) - 11.22.16

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Plants need water to survive, but some species of “resurrection plants" are kept alive for a long time in a dormant state without water. Plants with this ability would be valuable as food sources for long-duration space missions. NanoRacks-Wheaton Academy-Resurrection Plant Growth Experiment in Microgravity (NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth) provides fluorescent and visual images to illuminate a resurrection plant's growth in microgravity, and compares them with results from a control plant on the ground.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by M. Ali Atashroo, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Module-21 S/N 1002

Principal Investigator(s)
Wheaton Academy , Wheaton Academy, West Chicago, IL, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
M. Ali Atashroo, Ph.D., Wheaton Academy, West Chicago, IL, United States
Kiernan Mack, B.S., Wheaton Academy, West Chicago, IL, United States

Developer(s)
Wheaton Academy, West Chicago, IL, United States
NanoRacks LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2014 - September 2014

Expeditions Assigned
39/40

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-Wheaton Academy-Resurrection Plant Growth Experiment in Microgravity (NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth) examines the growth of a resurrection plant in microgravity.
  • NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth studies the possibility of using dormant plants to create a food supply for long-duration space flight.

Description
NanoRacks-Wheaton Academy-Resurrection Plant Growth Experiment in Microgravity (NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth) provides quantitative (chlorophyll fluorescence) and qualitative (pictures) data on the performance of a resurrection plant in space conditions (microgravity). This information has potential in the space industry to keep a plant alive in a dormant state for a long period, with the ability to create a food supply for long-duration space flight. The plants, mounted on a sealed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic platform, are watered starting on day 6 via a Takasago RP-Q1 micro-pump from a PVC plastic water pouch outside the sealed platform. During both the dormant and active periods of the experiment, pictures are taken every hour and chlorophyll fluorescence measurements are taken every hour. The chlorophyll fluorescence measurements are taken by activating red LEDs for a short period of time to excite the chlorophyll and are then quickly turned off, so that the auto-fluorescence of the chlorophyll can be detected by a phototransistor.

The plant starts in a dormant state on Day 0. From Days 0-5, measurements (pictures and chlorophyll fluorescence) are taken while the plant is in dormancy. On Day 5, water and light are introduced, and pictures and fluorescence measurements are taken each hour from Days 5-25. From Days 25-30, the water runs out, and the plant begins to return to its dormant state. The experiment ends on Day 30. Growth is recorded with pictures taken every hour as well as a phototransistor to measure chlorophyll fluorescence activity.

The payload board, has three main parts: the LEDs, the phototransistors and the pump. There are three different colored 5mm LEDs: white, red and blue. These help light up the plant for pictures and provide light for photosynthesis. The phototransistors measure the infrared light emitted from the chlorophyll in the plant. Finally the pump pumps water from a water bag into the plant chamber to water the plant.

NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth contains living plant material. It is recommended that the temperature remain between 10-40 degrees Celsius in order to ensure plant survival. There needs to be carbon dioxide concentrations at least equal to ground level. Previous experiments have shown that there is roughly three times the concentration.

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Applications

Space Applications
Future space missions will have limited water and soil resources, so plants that can live dormant without water and light have great potential for growing food. Plants are given water and light six days after they reach orbit, which will cause them to grow new leaves and produce chlorophyll, completing photosynthesis. When the experiment runs out of water, the plants will fall dormant again. Comparing measurements between plants grown in microgravity and on the ground validates the hypothesis that resurrection plants will be viable food plants in space.

Earth Applications
Students designed the plant container, watering system, hose assemblies and circuits, and designed experimental questions, providing experience in science and engineering and strengthening their connections to the space program. The results provide information about how plants grow in microgravity, which could yield new information about the mechanics of plant growth on Earth.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols
NanoRacks Module-21 is completely autonomous and only requires installation and removal. Data is obtained for a minimum of 30 days. The data is sent down while in flight at least every three days and analysis begins at this time.
Crew interaction with Module-21 is limited to transferring the NanoRacks locker Insert from the launch vehicle to the ISS, installation and activation of the NanoRacks Frames into the EXPRESS Rack Locker, cleaning of the air inlet filter (as necessary), and data retrieval (as needed) during the mission.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
NanoRacks

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Imagery

image The three components of NanoRacks-Wheaton Academy-Resurrection Plant Growth Experiment in Microgravity (NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth) - (left) polycarbonate container with plant and sponge inside, (bottom) the pump, and (right) printed payload board with LEDs. Image courtesy of Wheaton Academy.
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image The hardware schematic of NanoRacks-Wheaton Academy-Resurrection Plant Growth Experiment in Microgravity (NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth). Image courtesy of Wheaton Academy.
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The NanoRacks-Wheaton Academy-Resurrection Plant Growth Experiment in Microgravity (NanoRacks-WA-Resurrection Plant Growth) investigation team. Image courtesy of Wheaton Academy.

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