During the MagISStra mission, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli attempted to grow plants in space using a miniature greenhouse. Simultaneously, schoolchildren and the crew of Mars500 ran the same educational experiment to compare plant growth.
The plants grew in many varied locations and environments. The seeds on the International Space Station had no gravity whereas the seeds in the Mars500 'spacecraft' were isolated for 17 months with no sunlight. Schoolchildren in hot climates such as Portugal observed different growth from schoolchildren in colder climates such as in Germany. As can be expected the final results varied.
Growing plants in space will be crucial for the astronauts of the future. When flying to Mars or even further, it will be necessary to produce fresh food onboard and become partially self-sufficient. Growing plants can be very rewarding and good for morale, and an exciting way to teach schoolchildren biology and chemistry.
The results and conclusions of this experiment are now available for teachers to download in the language of their choice. Click on the download links to the right for the documents PDF format.