I received an interesting press release on Monday, about grass growing in space. The grass seed used in the experiment was Gro-Sure, and they’re trumpeting that the success of the experiment confirms their ‘Grow With Certainty’ promise.
The visuals aren’t very exciting, which is potentially why this hasn’t been picked up by the press in the same way that the zinnia flowering in space was at the beginning of the year.
The press release is light on details, but does say that the experiment “was conceived by secondary school students as part of the International Space School Education Trust’s (ISSET) Mission Discovery programme. The programme enables ordinary secondary school pupils to carry out research with NASA Astronauts, rocket scientists and trainers.
Daniel Reid, Daniel Sullivan, Joseph Lynch and Jenna Leigh Morris all took part in ISSET’s programme at the King’s College, London.”
There’s a corresponding press release from King’s College, London from earlier in the year that explains that three Mission Discovery experiments were chosen to go into space. I assume this one is the grass seed experiment:
“2. Effect of plant steroids on plant growth in microgravity: Plants are notoriously difficult to grow in microgravity, but they will provide an essential food source for long-term space missions. This experiment will determine whether plant steroids can potentiate their growth in a microgravity environment.”
Gro-Sure don’t use the word ‘steroid’ in their marketing material, but if you look closely at the packaging it does say that the seed used has “plant hormones to stimulate growth” included in the seed coating.
The research overview on the NASA website suggests that there will have been a control experiment carried out under gravity (on Earth, one supposes) at the same time.
Will our space crops of the future be on steroids? Who knows – it will take more than one experiment to tell whether the addition of steroids gives plants an edge when it comes to growing in microgravity. And, let’s admit – that’s not the best looking lawn ever!