NanoRacks-Modesto Christian School-Comparing the Growth of Spirulina on Earth and in Microgravity (NanoRacks-MCS-Spirulina Experiment) - 01.18.18

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Science Objectives for Everyone
NanoRacks-Modesto Christian School-Comparing the Growth of Spirulina on Earth and in Microgravity (NanoRacks-MCS-Spirulina Experiment) grows this algae in space and on the ground using a chamber containing water, nutrients, and an algae starter mix, with a pump providing aeration. A lighting system runs for 16 hours, simulating daylight. The team uses photographs of algae in the chamber and microscopic analysis back on Earth to evaluate growth and development of the organism and determines how it adapts to the microgravity environment. This experiment was created by high school students with guidance from mentors to put math, science, and engineering skills learned in school into practice.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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


Principal Investigator(s)
Modesto Christian ISS , Modesto Christian School, Modesto, CA, United States

Michael Magallanez, Modesto Christian School, Modesto, CA, United States

Valley Christian High School , San Jose , CA, United States
NanoRacks, LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae found in the wild in warm lakes and oceans. It is rich in many beneficial vitamins and essential nutrients, which is why it has become such a popular superfood. Spirulina is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids plus ten times the amount of beta-carotene found in carrots. Spirulina is found throughout various parts of the world, but because of its dramatic growth in popularity as a dietary supplement, it is now being cultivated in places like China, Australia, and Hawaii. This marvellous little microalgae is actually considered among the world’s oldest food sources. Aztec people consumed it in Mexico in the 16th century and Spirulina was reportedly consumed by the people of Chad over a thousand years ago.
  • Research is needed to develop a cost effective method to grow Spirulina in microgravity, to provide food for astronauts traveling on long endurance flights to Mars and other planets.
  • NanoRacks-Modesto Christian School-Comparing the Growth of Spirulina on Earth and in Microgravity (NanoRacks-MCS-Spirulina Experiment) examines a type of Spirulina that is sent pre-grown to the International Space Station (ISS) with required nutrients for further growth. The algae grows and reacts to the microgravity in space, and also to the gravity on Earth. The investigation cross-checks the growth of the algae grown in microgravity, naturally in freshwater, and as well as in a controlled environment on Earth. The algae has to adapt and develop due to its conditions in space.
  • Understanding Spirulina growth behavior in microgravity is important to sustain human life in space. Specifically, understanding how well and how fast Spirulina grows in microgravity will help optimize Spirulina growth during long endurance spaceflights to Mars and other plants.

The NanoRacks-Modesto Christian School-Comparing the Growth of Spirulina on Earth and in Microgravity (NanoRacks-MCS-Spirulina Experiment) capsule includes several components, one of which is the growth chamber containing the pool of the algae, specifically a kind of Spirulina. This pool contains water, growth nutrients, an algae starter mix, and the tubing for air. The secondary component is the micro air pump, which provides air into the growth chamber. Doing so aerates and circulates the pool for the algae growth. The third and final component is the lighting system; providing white light-emitting diode (LED) lighting to help with plant growth. Overall, the experiment performs as so: the air pump runs 24/7, aerating and circulating the pool of algae, and the lighting runs for 16 hours, simulating daylight. In conclusion, the pool containing the water, nutrients, and algae grow due to the aeration, circulation, and white LED lighting. Eventually, the algae are forced to develop and adapt to its current environment in microgravity because of its characteristics as a living thing.

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Space Applications
This experiment determines changes in the growth and development of algae in microgravity as a model for other living organisms.

Earth Applications
Results may contribute to advancing other research on Spirulina algae.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
The NanoRacks Black Box is completely autonomous and only requires installation and removal. The payload chamber needs to be returned to the researchers so its contents can be examined. Crew interaction with NanoRacks Black Box is limited to transferring from the launch vehicle to the ISS.

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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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