Tomatosphere-US (Tomatosphere-US) - 01.16.19

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Tomatosphere-US provides K-12 classrooms with tomato seeds from space to use in a blind germination study. Participating classes receive two sets of seeds, a control group from the ground and seeds flown in space or subjected to simulated space conditions. When teachers and students submit the results of their experiment, they learn the source of each set of seeds and can compare their data with other classroom experiments around the country.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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

OpNom: Tomatosphere-US

Principal Investigator(s)
Ann Jorss, American Seed Trade Association, Alexandria, VA, United States

Michael A. Dixon, Ph.D., University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Robert Morrow, Tomatosphere, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), Melbourne, FL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Space Exploration, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2016 - September 2016; April 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
The investigation previously flew on STS-127, STS-135, and SpX-6.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Tomatosphere-US provides teachers and students with a blind study involving two sets of seeds: a control group that has been Earth-based, and a treated (or “tortured”) group of seeds that has been in space or has been subjected to simulated space conditions.
  • When teachers have germinated their seeds with students, their results are submitted and recorded.
  • Teachers are then informed of the “source” of each of the two sets of seeds and their germination results compared to others who have submitted their results.
  • In order to fulfill the research objectives of the Tomatosphere program, seed transportation to the International Space Station (ISS) and return (1,200,000 seeds) is requested.
  • Seeds should remain on-orbit a minimum of 10 days and no longer than 60 days to support the seed delivery schedule and the intended science.


Tomatosphere, a curriculum-based program for schools, involves students in a germination experiment with two sets of tomato seeds – a control group and a group that has been to the International Space Station (ISS). Teachers register for the project and receive approximately 30 seeds for each class registered. They are sent out in the spring (or, soon after registration if this takes place after the spring mailing). When the project is completed, teachers submit results to the website,, and receive notification of the source of the two sets of tomato seeds, and a certificate of participation for students.
In order to fulfill the research objectives of the Tomatosphere program, seed transportation to the ISS and return (1,200,000 seeds) is required. The seeds remain on-orbit a minimum of 10 days and no longer than 60 days to support the seed delivery schedule and the intended science. After the seeds return to earth, they are distributed to participating schools and classrooms.

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Space Applications
Tomatosphere-US provides information about how spaceflight affects seed and plant growth and which type of seed is likely to be most suitable for long duration spaceflight. It also exposes students to space research, inspiring the next generation of space explorers.

Earth Applications
This investigation inspires students to pursue STEM fields and exposes them to agricultural and horticultural sciences. The program plans to reach a total of 18,000 US classrooms over a three-year period.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
Once on-orbit, the Tomatosphere-US can either be placed in ambient stowage on ISS or left in Dragon until return. While in stowage, the payload does not require crew time, power, data, or temperature control. The payload does not utilize any payload facilities other than ambient stowage and also does not interface with any electronics, such as laptops. The payload should not exceed 60 days on-orbit. When returning on SpaceX Dragon, the payload should be stored at ambient conditions and does not require power. A picture of a crew member holding the bag, and a picture of the bag floating with the crew at some point while on-orbit is requested. The suggested time for this is during unpacking of Dragon upon arrival.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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NASA Image: ISS048E045799 - Commander Jeff Williams poses for a photo with the Tomatosphere-US payload. Image taken in the Harmony Node 2.

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NASA Image: ISS050E052741 - European Space Agency (ESA) Thomas Pesquet (upside down), Expedition 50 Flight Engineer (FE), posing with Tomatospheres-5, Part Number (P/N):  CSA-TOMA-ESP-001-3, Serial Numbers (S/Ns):  001 and 002, within ziplock bags, in the U.S. Laboratory. Photo taken during Expedition 50.

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