NASA scientists and engineers explore human tolerance for living in space by first studying plants–on earth and in space. Is it possible for humans to live and work on the moon for years at a time? Why not first send plants as surrogates for humans? What kind of system can be set up to allow a small garden of “salad plants” to supplement the International Space Station astronaut diet with fresh green plants? Below are links to a few lessons that introduce elementary and middle school students to hydroponics and plant growth processes. Those who really get interested in engineering plants to grow in human controlled habitats can participate in a plant growth chamber design challenge.
Studying plant responses to the harsh conditions of space, is one step in a long process that NASA undergoes to study the possibilities for human habitats in space. Below are images of some of NASA plant research technologies. Mizuna salad greens grown in testing lab for future space application.
Plants in Space Learning Activity (including the student and teacher version): PlantsInSpace-Background
This PlantsInSpace-Light Quality Experiment offers a good follow-up to Plants in Space.
Link to NASA Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber.
Check out more lesson activities.