What goes up must come down. Stockton University’s student-designed experiment that launched to space as part of Mission 11 on Aug. 14, arriving at the International Space Station (ISS) roughly a day later, is back on Earth in the Unified Science Center for analysis.
After spending a month at the ISS, the Dragon took a plunge into the Pacific Ocean and a boat ride to land. The experiment continued on and was overnighted to Stockton, where its data is now revealing an important story about agriculture in space.
The experiment consisted of two identical test tubes containing precise quantities of flax seeds, fungus spores, water and sphagnum moss separated into compartments closed off by clamps. Moss serves as a growing medium that was chosen over soil because it holds water longer and has more nutrients. Flax was chosen because its seeds are edible, the plant can be used to make cloth, its extensive taproot system allows growth in limited space and it is proven to grow in space.
One test tube was sent to space, while its replica stayed in the Unified Science Center, untouched in a dark drawer to match the conditions in space. The replica serves as an experimental control for a comparison of results.
Note: Stockton was selected for Mission 12 of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, and a class of students is currently crafting experiment proposals. One project will be chosen to go to space in the spring of 2018. The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S. and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally.