As NASA looks toward a long-term human presence beyond Earth’s orbit, there are specific science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) challenges related to food production in space. Established in 2015 as a partnership between Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and NASA’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs, Growing Beyond Earth (GBE) enables student community scientists to actively contribute data toward NASA mission planning.
The confined quarters of a spacecraft present challenges for plant cultivation due to limited space. This experiment investigates the feasibility of maximizing this limited volume by co-cultivating specific plant types. In certain scenarios, two distinct food plants might thrive in a shared container without significantly compromising their yield. This synergy is contingent on the plants’ biological compatibility and their ability to coexist with minimal competition. Through this experiment, we aim to evaluate select plant combinations and their effect on productivity.
On the International Space Station (ISS), resources for growing plants are limited. In closed system agriculture, every gram, ml, and kilowatt is accounted for. This year, NASA scientists need your help to determine the optimal light solution for maximizing plant growth while minimizing the input of the other resources e.g. plants prefer certain wavelengths to grow. To produce those wavelengths more or less electricity is needed to have plants grow faster but also more water is needed to increase the yield. The comparison of kwhours/g or liters/g are great factors to compare the yields exposed to different environmental conditions. As with all GBE trials, this trial will require very detailed and accurate data collection and note-taking.
Teacher Workshop Recordings and Presentation
2023-2024 Introduction to Growing Beyond Earth Presentation by Dr. Gioia Massa (video)
2023-2024 Introduction to Growing Beyond Earth Presentation (powerpoint)
Combined Container and Companion Plants Workshop Presentation (video)
For additional resources, please visit the Teacher Resources webpage.