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  • -= Mercurious Chat =- (morrow Chat Log)Hosted by Dr. Robert Morrow of ORBITEC

    at from asks:
    3/7/2003 1:23:55 PM - Room opened by Moderator.

    at from asks:
    Hello and welcome to the online chat with Dr. Robert Morrow.

    Deborah Lee - Teacher at Hayes Cooper Center from Merigold, Mississippi asks:
    What effect did gravity have in effectto the experiment?

    The wheat plants grown in microgravity appeared to grow and function almost identically to those grown at 1g. The Brassica plants showed some reduction in seed pod formation, but we are not sure why yet.

    Kaitlyn - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    How long have you worked there?

    I have worked at ORBITEC for 8 years now. Before that I worked 8 years at the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics on plant growth systems.

    Deborah Lee - Teacher at Hayes Cooper Center from Merigold, Mississippi asks:
    Was the environment that you performed your experiment in at zero-gravity??

    The experiment we flew on the space station was exposed to what is referred to as microgravity since it is not quite 0 gravity. It is more like 10to the -5 gravity units.

    Deborah Lee - Teacher at Hayes Cooper Center from Merigold, Mississippi asks:
    Was the environment that you performed your experiment in at zero-gravity??

    The experiment we flew on the space station was exposed to what is referred to as microgravity since it is not quite 0 gravity. It is more like 10to the -5 gravity units.

    at from asks:
    Dr. Morrow has also answered many of your question in last week's "Ask a Scientist" feature. Check today's news and updates for his answers.

    Daniel - Student at Loyola Academy from Wilmette, Illinois asks:
    Why did you opt to not design the chamber with a sealed environment in more of a bubble like structure which could perfectly control temperature as well as the environment.

    The plant growth chambers are sealed and provide a very precise control of humidity, temperature, lighting, CO2, and water. A bubble structure is a very inefficient use of space since several bubble shaped experiments could not be packed next to each other without leaving large open areas.

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    How many other people do the same job as you?

    At ORBITEC there is 1 other biologist and about 25 engineers and technicians working on this project. Around the country there are about 3 other groups that work on plant growth systems for space.

    Kody - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Where do you live like the city and state?

    I live in Madison Wisconsin. It is a nice city to live in. Originally I was from the Chicago Illinois area and came to Madison to go the University of Wisconsin.

    Kaitlyn - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Are you ever going to try this experiment again?

    We are looking at some potential opportunities to fly the unit again. Also, we are building another plant system called the Plant Research Unit that will be used for long duration research on the ISS starting about 4 or 5 years from now.

    Jake - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    in the picture what are you holding??

    That is one of the BPS root modules (it is empty so you don't see any plants).

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What does CO2 stand for?

    carbon dioxide. People breath out CO2 as a waste product, but plants use CO2 to produce sugars they need to grow through photosynthesis.

    Daniel - Student at Loyola Academy from Wilmette, Illinois asks:
    What materials were used in the design of the growth chamber

    A lot of different materials were used. The outer structure was aerospace aluminum, the chambers and a number of interior components were made from engineering plastics. Small amounts of other materials like silicone rubber and stainless steel for also used for various components.

    Kaitlyn - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    The experimant you did, did it succed?

    Yes. We were able to replicate our experiment which has not often been done in space. We ended up with over 300 plant specimens to analyze, 3000 plant images, and over 10,000,000 data points.

    Jordan - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What do you think is your most important job?

    Defining the requirements necessary to grow plants and then working with the engineers to implement these requirments. If this is not done properly, the resulting chamber will not meet the needs of scientists who want to use it.

    Kody - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    How do they water the plants in space ?

    We use a system with porous tubes buried in clay particles that look like Kitty Litter. Water moves from the porous tube into the clay particles by capillary action. Capillary forces hold water in the clay like they do in a sponge so there is no free water to float around.

    Kaitlyn - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Do you use any other plants?

    We are looking at several other plants to test including Arabidopsis, radish, lettuce, and rice.

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Do you have to have any special training to do your job?

    Yes, I have a Ph.D. in horticulture and in botany, with training in environmental physiology and in controlled environment plant growth. I spent a total of 10 years in college.

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    We've just joined the chatroom, so we don't know if this has been asked. How long did it take for the wheat plants to grow or what were the results?

    The wheat plants were grown for about 21 days and harvested. They were still small plants at this stage (they take about 45 days to mature), but harvesting early provided all the necessary data and allowed time to grow several sets of wheat on orbit. The wheat plants appeared to grow and function in a very similiar fashion to those grown on the ground.

    Kaitlyn - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Did any of the plants die?

    No. A couple of seeds did not germinate (about .05%) and some of the Brassica in one chamber were stunted when we had a problem with our cooling system toward the end of the mission.

    Stacy - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What did you want to be when you were growing up?

    An astronaut or forest ranger.

    Kody - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    How much longer do you plan on working at ORBITEC?

    As long as I can, I really enjoy this type of work.

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Could anyone get this job if they go to collage?

    If you get the right training it is possible. As there are not very jobs like this it is a matter of availability at the time you graduate. There are other jobs similar to this one working with animals, microrgansims and such so you probably need to be a little flexible.

    Jake - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Which plant is the hardest to grow?

    I think Arabidopsis is one of the more difficult ones just because the seeds are so small you can hardly see them. This makes them hard to handle.

    Daniel - Student at Loyola Academy from Wilmette, Illinois asks:
    what did you design the growth chamber from

    We developed the requirements needed to grow plants and looked at the requirments NASA has for equipment that goes into space vehicles (such as safety requirments, strength requirements, and interfaces). Using these requirments we came up the design we ended up flying. This process can take a number of years to complete

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    what high school classes would you recomend for someone wanting to go into a field of work like yours?

    TYPING (keyboarding) as you do a lot of computer work. Also biology, chemistry, physics, math. Technical courses such as drafting or shop and business managment classes are also useful.

    Stacy - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Was there any problems in the experiment?

    We had a couple of problems with fans that failed over time but we were able to work around them to complete the experiment succesfully.

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    What other plants have been sucessfully grown on the space station?

    Arabidopsis, wheat, Brassica, soybeans, some Russian herbs (I don't remember the names offhand), oat and corn seedlings, probably some others.

    Jake - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Did u know any of the Columbia astronauts?

    Dave Brown was the BPS crew representative early in our program (helped evaluate the crew interfaces). However, I did not know him well.

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    have you ever been involved with anyother experiment with NASA

    Yes. I have been involved in 6 payload flown in space and with several ground based projects.

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What is Brassica?

    Brassica rapa is the scientific name for the mustard plants we used. These were the ASTROPLANTS developed by the Wisconsin Fast Plant Progam.

    Jake - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    How much math work do you have to do with your job?

    I use standard math and algebra very regularly. I also use geometry and statistics.

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    What direction does wheat grow in space? Does it grow taller or shorter?-Rory S.

    It seemed to be a tiny bit taller in space than on the ground. In the abscence of gravity it grows toward the lights (just like plants on a window sill curve toward the window)

    Kaitlyn - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    When did you know you wanted to become what you are today?

    I knew in high school (junior year) that I wanted to be a biologist. I had the opportunity to work in this field when I graduated from college and selected a program for may graduate degree.

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What kind of plant is Arabidopsis?

    It is in the mustard family. It is small and is used in many biotechnology studies. The full genetic sequence of Aradidopsis has been determined and it is used heavily in many fields of plant research.

    Deborah Lee - Teacher at Hayes Cooper Center from Merigold, Mississippi asks:
    Did the amount of gravity have any effect on the way the plants grew?

    It did not appear to have a major effect on the wheat. There may have been some differenc in how the Brassica seeds developed, but we are still looking at that.

    Deborah Lee - Teacher at Hayes Cooper Center from Merigold, Mississippi asks:
    Did the amount of gravity have any effect on the way the plants grew?

    It did not appear to have a major effect on the wheat. There may have been some differenc in how the Brassica seeds developed, but we are still looking at that.

    Deborah Lee - Teacher at Hayes Cooper Center from Merigold, Mississippi asks:
    Did the amount of gravity have any effect on the way the plants grew?

    It did not appear to have a major effect on the wheat. There may have been some differenc in how the Brassica seeds developed, but we are still looking at that.

    Jake - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Do ypu have any hobbies?

    Reading and collecting space toys.

    Kaitlyn - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Do you use sunlight for them to grow?

    We use small fluorescent lamps that operate just like the lamps in your classroom. On the space station there is no access to regular sunlight because there are very few windows and the station in the dark everytime it goes behind the earth.

    Jared - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    How long have you been a doctor??

    Since 1987

    Kody - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What kind of plants have been brought into space besides soy and wheat plants?

    Brassica, Arabidopsis, oat and corn seedlings, pine seedlings, probably several others I don't recall.

    Jared - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What do you do with the astronauts??

    My primary interaction with astronauts is during crew training, when I train the crew on plant procedures like pollination and harvesting. I also interact with astronauts who are biologists at professional meetings.

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    How many hours a day do you work?

    usually about 9 or 10, though it can be 12 to 14 hours a day when I have a big deadlline

    Jake - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Do you have any secial privalliges with your job??

    I get to travel fairly often and meet a lot of interesting people, otherwise pay and benefits are similar to most office type jobs.

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    How many hours a day do the plants stay in the growth chamber?

    They are grown for their entire life cycle in the growth chamber.

    Deborah Lee - Teacher at Hayes Cooper Center from Merigold, Mississippi asks:
    Did you have to use any special equipment? If so, what kind and why?

    I use a lot of environmental measurement equipment like temperature and humidity sensors, light sensors, pressure sensors, pH meters and so forth. I also use computers and large growth chambers that control light, temperature, humidity and CO2 for the plants I am growing.

    Emily - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    what is youor favorite part of your job?

    Helping to design and build plant growth hardware. I also like participating in outreach programs with elementary and high school students.

    Kody - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What is the largest load of plants brought into space at once?

    I'm not sure. Most of the time plants are launched as seeds or very small plants. We launched with about 120 plants that were a few inches high.

    at from asks:
    Thank you to all of you who submitted questions. We received many and unfortunately weren’t able to answer them all. Check back next week to see an archive of the chat. Special thanks to Dr. Robert Morrow for joining us. The chatroom will be closing at 3:30 PM Eastern Time.

    Stacy - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    What is the most exciting thing that has happened?

    The most exciting thing I have had was the opportunity to fly several times on the NASA KC-135 aircraft that provides short periods of low gravity (this plane is called the vomet comet), It was very exciting being able to float around even for just a few seconds at a time.

    Caitlin - Student at Rickard Elementary from Williston, North Dakota asks:
    Do you use any special fertilizer to make the plants grow faster?

    We use a standard slow release fertilizer called Osmocote that you can buy at the garden store.

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    What kind of space toys have you colected?-Logan G.

    matchbox and hotwheel space vehicles, happy meal space toys, astronaut g.i. joes, star trek and starwars figures, and small plastic spacemen figures.

    at from asks:
    3/7/2003 2:33:01 PM - Room closed by Moderator. Thank you for your participation.

     
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