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  • -= Mercurious Chat =- (crabb Chat Log)Hosted by Thomas Crabb of ORBITEC

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    Room opened by Moderator on 10/14/03 at 10:30.

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    Welcome to Space Explorers online chat with Mr. Thomas Crabb, co-founder of Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC). You are all invited to submit any questions you may have about plants in space and space hardware.

    Anne Smith - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary School from Bowler, WI asks:
    Do space plants look and grow differently in space than on earth?

    A very good question that is still being investigated. To date many plants grow similarily in space as they do on Earth and tend to follow light. Investigations we lead with scientists sponsored by NASA showed that the wheat plants had little or no photosynthetic differences from Earth to Orbit. This may not be true of all plants.

    Jemma Agar - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    What kind of plants have you planted in space?

    In our experiments, we have tested a brassica named the Wisconsin Fast Plant and a dwarf wheat genetically engineered for size by the Utah State University.

    Anne Smith - Teacher at Bowler School District from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    Are the colors of plants the same as on earth - specifically flowers or plants like colors?

    The aspects of plant color have not changed much with growth on Orbit. However, one interesting tool that is being developed is to implant genes within a plant that "glow" under certain conditions (such as water stress) such that we can use the plant color as a sensor. With new lighting techniques, these approaches may become integral to the closed growth system for food production.

    Shery Bennettone - Teacher at Barton Elementary School from Lake Worth, Florida asks:
    Good Morning Mr. Crabb. Thanks for creating this wonderful project. Did you fund this with grants or did the Govnt. help?

    Much of our work is sponsored by NASA and the government; however, our ideas that attract the funding come from a good base of education and the significant strength of agricultural knowledge.

    Pat Zeinert - Teacher at Bowler from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    do they still have leaves?

    With proper growth support, most plants have leaves similar to on Earth. However, gravity can play a role in the shape of the plant.

    Shery Bennettone - Teacher at Barton Elementary School from Lake Worth, Florida asks:
    Did you grow the plants in a space lab?

    We grew the plants in a special, scientific growth chamber that controlled temperature, humidity, lighting, CO2 levels, and flow to the root zone. The environment was sealed from the crew cabin. The growth system is called the Biomass Production System. More info on www.orbitec.com

    Anne Smith - Teacher at Bowler School District from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    What do you have to do in space to have them grow right because of photosynthesis on earth?

    Proper environmental conditions are always important. Also proper quantity and quality of light matter. We measured photosynthetic rates by measuring the amount of CO2 given off or consumed by the plant at different environmental conditions and light levels.

    Amanda Graves - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    Do they grow bigger on Earth or in space?

    This depends on the plant. For food production, we actually would like them to the inedible mass to grow smaller and produce more edible mass.

    Pat Zeinert - Teacher at Bowler from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    how long have they been in space?

    Plants have been grown for decades in space, mainly in experiments. Every crew that has had major involvment has proclaimed some benefit of interacting with the plants. We hope to quantify their psychological benefit as well as their life support benefit.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    We are reading a book by Jules Verne. Have you been influenced by science fiction?

    All the time and continuously. Live long and prosper!

    Diane Smith - Chat Guest at Bowler school from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    Did you send the plants up as seeds or after they grew?

    Both. We became very confident that we could send up dry root modules and seeds and start the plants from scratch on orbit. We hope to do this soon with small and large vegetable gardens.

    Anne Smith - Teacher at Bowler School District from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    List the plants that have been taken into space and grown there. How did they respond in a weightless environment?

    Wheat, Arabidopsis, Brassica, and many others have been flown for science. Tomatoes have been flown as student experients. The crews have grown onions and other flowers as side activities. We hope to have continuous seed-to seed experiments of many varieties to investigate the effects of long duration, multiple generations.

    Shery Bennettone - Teacher at Barton Elementary School from Lake Worth, Florida asks:
    Where do the plants get light in space, from the sun the same as we do?

    Artificial lighting is most common, flourescent as in your school or LEDs like the small red lights on your portable CD player.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    What scientific questions need to still be answered about plants in space?

    NASA has a backlog of science that investigate the changes at the molecular level, cellular level, and organism level. We need to know how to support the plants in addition to knowing what new products (e.g, medicines) we may be able to create with plants.

    Kevin M - Chat Guest at Shiocton from Shiocton, WI asks:
    Are there any plans to build a chamber that would study animal development in microgravity? Like monkeys.

    We are discussing with another small business the development of the next generation system to study rats and mice - that company name in STAR (rats spelled backwards). This device would also operate in a centrifuge which could test in zero gravity, lunar gravity, or mars gravity. Fish, insects, and other habitats are also being considered. Microorganism developmnet is also of interest.

    Jemma Agar - Chat Guest at Bowler elementary from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    how did you get the light for the plant?

    Small fluorescent bulbs much like in offices and schools, but much small and more efficient.

    Anthony Clements - Chat Guest at Tellico Plains Jr. High from Tellico Plains, TN asks:
    What happens to the oxygen that the plant produces?

    The oxygen can collect in the sealed chambers, but is typically bled off (purposefully leaked) to the cabin. This is one of the benefits of plants in space - provide oxygen to crew.

    Anne Smith - Teacher at Bowler School District from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    How big did the plants get for the amount of time out there?

    The wheat grew to the top of our chamber (7-8") in 20-24 days. Our next generation chamber will be >15" so that we can grow wheat to maturity. We planned harvests once the plants did reach the top of our chamber.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    How will plants be used on a lunar or mars base?

    They will likely form a tremendous buffer for supporting life - recycling CO2 to O2, recycling dirty water to drinkable water, and producing food. We have even worked with the university on concepts that use the inedible plant material for stuctures such as walls and chairs.

    Jordan Athony Allen Schreiber-Duffek - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary from Bowler,WI, Wisconsin asks:
    Have they survived or did they die?

    Both plants and animals can easily survive in space.

    Anthony Clements - Chat Guest at Tellico Plains Jr. High from Tellico Plains, TN asks:
    Without gravity how does the plant, water, and supplies stay in place?

    Great question and a major problem in design. Bubbles do not float up. We use pressure, surface tension, and capillary forces to guide water. Take a small see-through straw and put in a shallow bowl. Water will "creep" up the straw because of attraction of the water to the straw. We use similar approaches to make sure water flows where is should.

    Samuel High - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementy from Bowler, Wi. asks:
    Was the wheat harvested? did it taste the same?

    We harvested for scientific sampling and analysis to determine if the cells and internal biology of the plant was any different than on Earth. The crew was not allowed to eat these sample. I can't wait to start growing food!

    Shery Bennettone - Teacher at Barton Elementary School from Lake Worth, Florida asks:
    Can you grow trees in space? -Kindergartener

    Mini-trees have been grown. One study looked at the strength of the wood. We do not currently have enough volume to accommodate full-size trees. Some day.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    How do plants get CO2 in space?

    Generally, the crew breathes the CO2 and the space station normally has to eliminate this - remember Apollo 13? - plants will help convert the CO2 to O2 naturally.

    Shery Bennettone - Teacher at Barton Elementary School from Lake Worth, Florida asks:
    Have you ever grown flowers in space?

    We have not but I know that this has been done. We are preparing a Space Garden for astronauts and students and hope to fly marigolds in addition to radishes, oninons, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and many others.

    Shery Bennettone - Teacher at Barton Elementary School from Lake Worth, Florida asks:
    Can you ride a bike in the space lab for exercise?

    Space Station has its own bicycle, but you need to be strapped into it and it doesn't have wheels. The astronauts need to exercise in space to maintain their muscle from shrinking.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    Has anything grown in space ever been eaten by humans?

    Yes, perhaps more than planned. We hope this trend continues; however, we need to be very careful about microbial growth and contamination, protecting the crew from any health hazards.

    Stephanie Williams - Chat Guest at Bowler elementary from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    How did you come up with this experiment

    Many scientists are very interested in how and why plants work. Space eliminates gravity, which may influence the basic biological and physical mechanisms of plants. Many of these smart people get together to talk about their interests and questions, tell each other about what results they see in their laboratory and talk to engineers to find out how they can accomplish good tests. Short answer - a lot of smart people working together.

    Pam Chroge - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    Did any of the leaves lose some chlorophyll?

    That question is still being evaluated.

    Anthony Clements - Chat Guest at Tellico Plains Jr. High from Tellico Plains, TN asks:
    How can you adjust the temperature in space when we do not have control of temperature here on Earth?

    We have specially design system that can be operated cold or hot depending on the electrical inputs we give it (much like the electric coolers you can buy). We use this power to change the temperature of air ducts that either heats or cools the air in the plant chamber.

    Jim Schmidt - Chat Guest at Holmen Middle School from Holmen, Wisconsin asks:
    Could plants grow in Lunar soil?

    Yes, although there are no significant nutrients available. We end up having to fertalize the lunar soil. The concept of compost on the moon to help this has been considered by some.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    Are there plants on the International Space Station right now?

    I believe there may be lettuce growing in a small chamber on the Russian side.

    Jordan Athony Allen Schreiber-Duffek - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary from Bowler,WI, Wisconsin asks:
    How many days did it take for them to sprout?

    The wheat germinates in a few days. We keep them wet and give them light.

    Amanda Graves - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    Has anything gone wrong with any of the plants in space?

    No plants that I know of have "gone wrong". Most of our problems are with power and component failures.

    Samuel High - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementy from Bowler, Wi. asks:
    Did the wheat ripen in space like it does on Earth?

    It will when we get taller chambers. On the old Russian MIR, wheat grew out, but tthe seed was mostly sterile because of high levels of ethylene which is the same compound that helps fruit ripen.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    We heard that astronauts have taken their own plants into space to grow on their own. Is this true?

    Yes, through our discussions with astronauts, we have design a Space Garden kit that is very small, can be flown in their pocket. All they have to do to start the plant is to add water and put next to a light. We have a similar non-flight version we hope to make available to classrooms while the astronauts fly theirs.

    cord thiex - Chat Guest at bowler from bowler, w.i. asks:
    will you plant pumpkins and squash

    I hope this is possible in the future but will require much volume in space. Initially food plants with extremely high productivity and reliability will be grown.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    Who or what inspired you to study space and when?

    The Apollo program and Star Trek probably got my interest. I seemed to be good at science and math. When I was in college, I ended up working for NASA as a student.

    Anthony Clements - Chat Guest at Tellico Plains Jr. High from Tellico Plains, TN asks:
    What happens when the plant gets to big?

    It starts to bend over, will keep growing but grows at much less productive rate because it can not use the light efficiently.

    Cindy Byers - Teacher at Rosholt Middle School from Rosholt, Wisconsin asks:
    Follow up question: how does the CO2 get into the plant chamber?

    We have a system that has a tank of CO2 and we inject it. Other chambers can leak CO2 from the crew environment.

    Jason Daniels - Chat Guest at K-Beach Elementary from Soldotna, Alaska asks:
    How long does it take to travel to Mars? (Allen)

    Anywhere from a few months to a few years. Mars was its closest to Earth just recently - this makes it easier. Generally, there is a launch opportunity with shorter travel distance and time every two years.

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    We would like to thank every one who participated in the chat, especially Mr. Crabb. There were quite a few intriguing questions. Unfortunately there were many more than we could get to. The chat will close at 11:30 AM CDT, after which a log of the entire chat will be posted. Once again, thank you for participating.

    Jason Daniels - Chat Guest at K-Beach Elementary from Soldotna, Alaska asks:
    Who takes the fertilizer up to the ISS? (Mysteri)

    We integrate the fertilizer into the root zone. The root zone can contain small particulates, gels, foams, and just nutrient solution. Many options exist.

    Jason Daniels - Chat Guest at K-Beach Elementary from Soldotna, Alaska asks:
    Do plants change in size in space? (Olivia)

    Most plant grow normal in space; although the effect of gravity may make them look different; just like the astronauts hair grows in space but looks puffy in space because of the lack of gravity.

    Jordan Athony Allen Schreiber-Duffek - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary from Bowler,WI, Wisconsin asks:
    Did you ever try any new soil?

    We have designed the "soil matrix" we use to be good for our plants. Many people are working on alternatives to soil to make pulling the plants out easier and make planting easier. This is one reason that hydroponics is popular - growing plants without soil, only using nutrient solution. However, because water drops don't fall, this is hard to control.

    Jason Daniels - Chat Guest at K-Beach Elementary from Soldotna, Alaska asks:
    Does the lettuce taste the same? (Shelby)

    I have not heard. My guess is that anything you grow yourself in the confined volume of Space Station away from Earth and home probably tastes great.

    Pam Chroge - Chat Guest at Bowler Elementary from Bowler, Wisconsin asks:
    Did you have problems replanting seeds in space?

    No. Many of our seeds were pre-planted. Some seeds are easy to plant into cloth material that help the seed stay wet. Some seeds (arabidopsis) are small like pepper specs and can be difficult to replant.

    Jason Daniels - Chat Guest at K-Beach Elementary from Soldotna, Alaska asks:
    Do you believe there is life on Mars?

    I believe there could have been, and believe there will be in the future.

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    The chat room will be closing in a few moments. Thank you for joining us. Please join us again for our next Live Online Chat with Dr. Catherine Weitz. Dr. Weitz is the Program Scientist for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission. This chat will occur on Nov. 6, 2003 - 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. CST.

    Anthony Clements - Chat Guest at Tellico Plains Jr. High from Tellico Plains, TN asks:
    Does gravity affect the direction a plant grows?

    Yes, some plants are more effected by this than others - this is call the gravitropic response. Most plants are more influenced by light - phototropic response.

    Chrissy Paape - SEI Staff at Space Explorers from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us!

    Had a great time - Thanks

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    10/14/2003 11:43:45 AM - Room closed by Moderator. Thank you for your participation.

     
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