By Kevin Deutsch
Can you grow veggies in space? Students at Mary Help of Christians Catholic School in Parkland are doing scientific research to find out.
A group of seventh-graders at MHOC are taking part in Growing Beyond Earth, a classroom-based, citizen science project coordinated by NASA in partnership with Miami’s Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden.
The seven students, members of Donna Hanrahan’s hydroponic gardening class, are growing three kinds of radishes under conditions similar to the Vegetable Production System on the International Space Station.
The students monitor temperature, humidity, plant growth, and plant health. Details of the plants’ watering schedule are also maintained.
The data is shared weekly with NASA scientists, who plan to use findings from Growing Beyond Earth to improve the diversity and quality of edible plants grown by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, as well as during long-duration missions into deep space.
With help from the MHOC class, NASA hopes to learn what radishes would provide the best blend of nutrients, sustenance, and taste if grown by astronauts in space.
“They were excited to actually provide real data that’s going to be used at NASA to further research on providing food for astronauts,” said Hanrahan, adding that student interest in the course has surged due to the project. “They’ve played a role in choosing which of these radishes will possibly be going up into space.”
Now in its sixth year, Growing Beyond Earth has engaged over 12,000 middle and high school students and their teachers nationwide, organizers said.
The radishes being studied at MHOC are the Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, and Red Head varieties.
The students enjoyed tasting each and comparing their qualities as the project progressed, Hanrahan said.
“They have a better understanding as to why this might be important, to feed those astronauts who are going to be out in space for such a long period of time.”
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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