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Space Exposed Experiment Developed for Students (Education-SEEDS)


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

Experiment Overview

This content was provided by Howard G. Levine, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Summary

On-orbit videotape and photographic images were taken of plant germination and early growth. Imagery was converted to educational videos for the purpose of exciting and engaging students in science and technology and for motivating and providing professional development for educators.

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Howard G. Levine, Ph.D., Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

    Information Pending


    Kennedy Space Center, , FL, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization

    Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

    ISS Expedition Duration

    November 2000 - March 2001

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    STS-41C, STS-88 (SEEDS-II) and ISS Increment 1.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • The Investigating Space Exposed Experiment Developed for Students (Education-SEEDS) is a plant seed experiment which tested growth under different light, pressure and microgravity conditions.

    • The experiment was generated from three different types of seeds - a control group, seeds that had been exposed to a Mars-like environment and those exposed to a simulated Mars greenhouse environment.

    • The growth of plants from these seeds can and will answer questions about the supply of support requirements to long duration space missions; i.e. food, water, oxygen and the need for plants to consume carbon dioxide exhaled by crew members.


    During the Education-Space Exposed Experiment Development for Students (SEEDS) experiment, eight pouches of soybean and corn seeds flew on station and germinated under either dark or lighted conditions. A grid along the side of the pouch allowed the crew to determine the amount of growth without opening the pouches. In addition, microgravity-exposed seeds were distributed to schools in Fall 2001 and students conducted germination experiments comparing them with seeds that had not flown in space.

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    Space Applications

    The goal of Education-SEEDS is to evaluate the growth of space-exposed seeds compared to earth-grown seeds. Another goal is the demonstration of plant growth in space. Food producing plants will be necessary when it is impossible to carry enough freeze dried food to last the entire voyage. Another goal of Education-SEEDS was to increase student interest in science and space exploration; i.e. stimulating enthusiasm in students and teachers for space related education.

    Earth Applications

    Studies such as these could lead to a better understanding of how seeds germinate and grow here on Earth.

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    Operational Requirements

    The seed pouches grown on ISS in the light utilized ambient Station conditions (i.e., they were velcroed to the outside of a locker). The crew activated seed germination and took digital camera pictures over the course of the experiment. Temperature was recorded automatically and the digital images were posted to a web site enabling ground-based researchers to observe the germination rate. Video was used to produce educational material.

    Operational Protocols

    A syringe was attached to a water bag via luer lock fittings, filled and subsequently used to sequentially add 12 mL of water to each of 4 soybean and 4 corn seed pouches. After watering, 2 corn and 2 soybean seed pouches were velcroed to a locker door (exposed to ambient light). The remaining 2 corn and 2 soybean seed pouches were stowed on the inside of the locker (shielded from light at all times except when photographed). All seed pouches were photographed at 1-2 day intervals.

    After return to Earth, imagery was converted to educational videos used for the purpose of exciting and engaging students in science and technology. It was also used in motivating and providing professional development for teachers.

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    Results/More Information

    The Education-SEEDS investigation, which was part of the Jason XI mission, was the first plant experiment to be performed on station. This experiment studied the effects of microgravity and light on the germination of corn and soybean seeds.

    The corn seedlings that were exposed to light appeared to show phototropism (or growth towards light). The shoots grew toward the light and were green, demonstrating chlorophyll synthesis (the creation of the green pigment that is used in photosynthesis). The corn seedlings that were not exposed to light did not turn green and did not grow towards the light. The soybean seedlings grown in the light were slightly greener than the seedlings grown in the dark. The phototropic effect was more evident in the corn seedlings than in the soybean seedlings. On Earth, gravity influences the roots of plants to grow in a downward direction (gravitropism). While on orbit the seedlings grew in a microgravity environment. Whether grown in light or dark, the corn roots grew in random directions. The roots of the soybean seeds also grew in random directions (Levine et al. 2001).

    Examination of the seeds after their stay on ISS revealed that the nutritional and epidermal layers of the space exposed seeds were more porous than those of the ground-based control seeds. This might allow nutrients to disperse through the seeds more quickly and explain the faster germination and growth rates observed in the space-exposed seeds.

    Simple space flight experiments suitable for ISS can have significant science impact in the classroom. A total of 750,000 students across the U.S. participated in the experiments, growing corn and soybean seeds in their classrooms to compare with the results from station, and participating in live broadcasts. (Evans et al. 2009)

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    Results Publications

      Levine LH, Tynes GK, Levine HG, Norwood K.  Soybean and Corn Seed Germination in Space: The First Plant Study Conducted on Space Station Alpha. Proceedings of the 38th Space Congress; 2001 April 30 - May 4; Cape Canaveral, FL. 181-187.

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

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    Related Websites
  • JASON On Board Seed Experiments
  • Long Duration Exposure Facility Experiments
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    image NASA Image: ISS01E5191 - Bill Shepherd tends to a seed pouch during Increment 1. Additional pouches hang off the ISS "wall" above the "Astronauts at Work" sign.
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    image NASA Image: ISS01E5564 - Soybean seedlings 3 days after watering on ISS during Expedition 1.
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    Information provided by the investigation team to the ISS Program Scientist's Office.
    If updates are needed to the summary please contact JSC-ISS-Program-Science-Group. For other general questions regarding space station research and technology, please feel free to call our help line at 281-244-6187 or e-mail at JSC-ISS-Payloads-Helpline.