NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion) - 11.22.16

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Food crops must exchange pollen, either through the wind or pollinators like insects and birds, in order to produce seeds and fruit. NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion) tests the hypothesis that moving gases cause pollen to move across a sample chamber in microgravity, similar to how wind transports pollen on Earth.  Seven students from Ambassador High School in Torrance, California, developed and built the hardware for the investigation.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Jerren Smith, B.S., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Module-20 S/N 1002, S/N 1003

Principal Investigator(s)
Ambassador High School , Ambassador High School, Torrance, CA, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Bob Giampaoli, M.S., Ambassador High School, Torrance, CA, United States
Jerren Smith, B.S. , Ambassador High School, Seal Beach, CA, United States

Developer(s)
Ambassador High School, Torrance, CA, 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
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2014 - September 2014; March 2015 - March 2016

Expeditions Assigned
39/40,43/44,45/46

Previous Missions
Information Pending

^ back to top

Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion) provides insight as to whether or not pollen grains can be propelled across a short distance in a microgravity environment when a small fan is activated. The goal of this investigation is to determine if pollen can be transported from plant to plant in a microgravity environment. This work is needed to understand and address issues related to food production and sustainability practices for long-term space travel and colonization.
  • NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion compares the passive movement of pollen resulting from the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) and the movement of pollen due to the force of a fan that runs at several different time intervals.
  • NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion provides insight into whether or not a fan is required in a microgravity environment to move pollen across a distance. If the fan is required, i.e. if the pollen does not move due to the movement of the ISS, this study determines the minimal amount of time the fan would need to operate to move a quantity of pollen across the MicroLab. The results of this work is a step towards understanding the feasibility of growing plants that require wind pollination (anemophilous plants) in a microgravity environment with minimal power and space usage.
 

Description
NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion) determines if pollination is possible in a microgravity environment. Pollination is the transfer of pollen for the fertilization and reproduction of plants. Bee pollen (1 g) is chosen (Module-20 S/N 1002) due to availability and a larger grain size (80-95 μm) that is easier to detect with a camera. Pollen is stored in a pollen containment unit until the experiment is initiated on the International Space Station (ISS).  Within the MicroLab, is a pollen containment unit that stores pollen, a vibrator (which is within the pollen containment unit), a fan, a pollen receiver, and a camera with a light-emitting diode (LED). The experiment is initiated when the lid of the pollen containment unit is opened by a Dual Metal Carbonite Gear (HS-35HD Ultra Nano Servo from Servo City 33035S). Pollen is allowed to float out of the pollen containment unit for a period of time, and then a fan (Mighty Mini TubeAxial 3V 17 mm by 3 mm from 259-1533-ND Digikey) is turned on to move the pollen to a pollen receiver that is covered with double-sided adhesive tape. Pollen that sticks onto the adhesive tape is photographed by the MicroLab camera, and photos are analyzed when data is received. The vibrator (from RadioShack 2730107) is activated at a specific time to ensure that pollen doesn’t get stuck in the pollen containment unit. Programing and electronic interface circuitry manages the fan, servo, vibrator, LED, timing duration, and photo frequency.

Corn pollen (1 g) is chosen for the second investigation (NanoRacks Module-20 S/N 1003) due to its availability and its large grain size (80-95 μ) that is easy to detect with a camera. Pollen is stored in a pollen containment unit until the experiment is initiated on the ISS. After the servo opens the pollen containment unit, the pollen is allowed to freely float within the MicroLab for a period of time with no input from the fan. Once a pre-determined period of time elapses, the fan operates at various time intervals hopefully transporting the pollen onto the plastic plate.  A vibrator attached to the pollen containment unit is also programmed to dislodge any pollen that remains inside of the containment unit. Over the course of the experiment an LED is powered on for illumination and a camera takes pictures at scheduled intervals, which determines if pollen has floated from the pollen containment unit and settled on the surface of the plastic plate.

^ back to top

Applications

Space Applications
Future space farms may grow food crops like tomatoes, berries or corn, but these plants must be pollinated in order to produce fruit. In the absence of animal pollinators or natural winds, fans may be used to circulate air and transport pollen from plant to plant. NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion investigates the potential for fan-blown pollination in space. On the International Space Station, bee pollen grains are released into a micro-laboratory, allowed to float in mid-air, and then blown around with a fan.

Earth Applications
High school students designed the investigation, which increases interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through a connection to the space program. The investigation may also reveal additional information about the mechanics of natural bee pollen movement on Earth.

^ back to top

Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

Data collection within the experiment is automated; downlink is done via scheduled STELLA/NanoRacks command window intervals for the NanoRacks Platform.  Payload is ambient and soft-stowed, but late loaded (approximately L-72 hours) and an early return.

Crew interaction is limited to transferring the NanoRacks Module from the launch vehicle to the ISS, installing of the Module into a NanoRacks Platform, activating the NanoRacks Platform, data retrieval (as needed) during the mission, and destowing and returning the Module.

^ back to top

Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

^ back to top

Results/More Information

Information Pending

^ back to top

Related Websites
NanoRacks
Ambassador High School
The Daily Breeze

^ back to top


Imagery

image NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion) AHS MicroLab Pollen Propulsion components include fan, pollen containment unit with vibrator (not visible), and fan. Image courtesy of Ambassador High School.
+ View Larger Image


image The NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion) Ambassador High School students along with mentors and principal pose for team picture. Image courtesy of Ambassador High School.
+ View Larger Image


image Jacqui Artino and Michael Davif, Ambassador High School, mount the pollen containment and servo to a bracket for NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion). Image courtesy of Ambassador High School.
+ View Larger Image


image Ambassador High School students had to choose between a blower and fan to propel pollen through the MicroLab for NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion). Airflow meter was purchased but not used within MicroLab. Image courtesy of Ambassador High School.
+ View Larger Image


image
The NanoRacks-Ambassador High School-Pollen Propulsion in a Microgravity Environment (NanoRacks-AHS-Pollen Propulsion) Ambassador High School students along with mentors pose for team picture with their experiment poster. Image courtesy of Ambassador High School.

+ View Larger Image