Student team selected for 'Drop Your Thesis!' 2011

Hands-on experience for the students
11 May 2010

The FallingRoots team has been selected to develop and perform their microgravity experiment during ESA’s 3rd 'Drop Your Thesis' campaign.

This programme gives selected university students the opportunity to develop – as part of their research programme or Masters / PhD thesis - an experiment to be carried out during a series of drops at the ZARM drop tower in Bremen, Germany.

After careful evaluation of the experiment proposals, a review board comprising experts from ESA’s Education Office, ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Operations, ZARM-FABmbH and ELGRA (European Low Gravity Research Association) finally selected the following experiment proposal: Chemical signalling in roots under microgravity conditions.

ZARM Drop Tower in Bremen

Falling Roots, a team composed of PhD students from the University of Florence, Italy, proposed an experiment which aims to investigate the production and release of nitric oxide from plant roots while in microgravity. Plants evolve under the constant force of gravity, which strongly influences their growth and development. Lack of gravity is therefore considered to be a powerful source of stress for the plants. Among the many chemicals produced by roots while under stress, nitric oxide has a leading role in redirecting plant metabolism to overcome environmental constraints, such as microgravity.

This student experiment will use a very simple collecting system. Water samples, in which the roots will be placed during the capsule fall, will be collected just before the end of the microgravity period. The concentration of nitric oxide in these water samples will be measured on the ground, after the recovery of the capsule.

The third 'Drop Your Thesis' campaign is scheduled to take place during autumn 2011. During the preparation of the experiment, the student team will be supported by ESA's Education Office and ZARM engineers.

This opportunity complements other gravity research opportunities offered by ESA’s Education Office, such as 'Fly Your Thesis! - An Astronaut Experience', 'Spin Your Thesis!' and Rocket EXperiments for University Students (REXUS - collaboration with the German Aerospace Center DLR and the Swedish National Space Board SNSB).

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