Things are looking up for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden — literally. The organization that runs the sprawling 83-acre property in Coral Gables, FL, has a high-flying educational partnership with NASA that’s taking off. Among the payload of the latest SpaceX launch, which took off late last week destined for the International Space Station (ISS), was two new varieties of edible plants. What makes the feat even more unique is that they were selected by middle and high school students through experiments coordinated by Fairchild Garden.
The SpaceX CRS-15 carried with it several science experiments, including seeds for testing in NASA’s veggie growth chamber. Two of the plant varieties, ‘Dragoon’ lettuce and ‘Extra Dwarf’ pak choi, were chosen based on the results of Fairchild’s Growing Beyond Earth classroom science program.
Growing Beyond Earth is Fairchild’s school science project, designed in partnership with NASA Kennedy Space Center, to advance research on growing plants aboard spacecraft. According to Fairchild officials, the launch represents three years of intensive research and more than 15,000 students.
Fairchild’s collaboration with NASA is designed to engage middle and high school students with the space program and teach them science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills.
To prepare for the mission, students constructed and used a plant growth system that approximates conditions found in the veggie growth chambers on the ISS. They followed research protocols to measure and record data on plant growth, which astronauts will put to the ultimate test in space.