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How Mira Loma’s Bioengineering Club Is Helping Feed Astronauts

From puree tubes and cubes of dry goods to freeze-dried foods and powdered beverages, NASA has been perfecting methods of feeding astronauts in space for decades and has come a long way. One of the greatest triumphs for space sustenance is the Vegetable Production System, otherwise known as Veggie. This space garden resides on the International Space System (ISS) and is being used by NASA scientists to test a topic many have been curious about for years: growth in microgravity. But while there is only one Veggie in outer space, there have been countless imitations being utilized in classrooms across the country. 

Mira Loma’s Bioengineering club has just recently finished participating in NASA’s Growing Beyond Earth initiative (GBE), a classroom-based education project designed for middle and high school students to conduct experiments and collect data that will help expand food options for space flight. From October 21st to November 17th, students in the club recorded data and studied the growth of six radish plants in a lab setting modeled after the Veggie system on the ISS. Volunteers faced complications and trials as they did their best to help these plants prosper, but in the end, all six plants survived and were healthy– many of them producing radishes. 

Radishes were chosen this year after being consumed by astronauts on the ISS in 2020. They’re one of the more promising crops in the eyes of scientists due to their edible leaves and roots, many valuable nutrients, and their ability to mature in short periods of time. Radishes are also eaten all over the globe which makes them appealing for an astronaut crew consisting of different cultural backgrounds. They also have a wide variety of cultivars and can produce “large amounts of edible biomass.” The three cultivars grown at Mira Loma were GBE 151: Cherry Belle (the control), GBE: 156 Celesta, and GBE 158: Red Head. 

The data that was collected daily by student volunteers has now been submitted and will be used along with the data from over 300 other participating schools in 42 states by NASA scientists to develop technologies for growing these food crops as efficiently as possible in deep space. From the program’s start in 2015 to 2020, “more than 35,000 middle and high school students and their teachers nationwide have contributed hundreds of thousand data points and tested 150 varieties of edible plants for NASA.” Mira Loma is now a part of that legacy. 

The Bioengineering club officers are already planning on fundraising to purchase a second kit for GBE’s optional Trial 2 session in the Spring. It was radishes this time, but there’s no telling what’s next. If you want to learn more, stop by at one of the club meetings which occur every other Monday in Mr. Canet’s room (H110). 

Though several photos have been included below, the latest updates and more photos from the project can be found on the Mira Loma Bioengineering Club’s official Twitter

Photos:

October 21st, 2021 (outside view of growth chamber)
October 25th, 2021 (inside growth chamber)
October 27th, 2021 
November 4th, 2021
November 10th, 2021 (a slight setback in which the plants wilted over the weekend)
November 15th, 2021 (after the four-day weekend)
November 18th, 2021 (the end of the project period; one of the radishes grown)

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