Sprouting in Orbit

Sprouting in a aeroponic bag on the International Space Station. Credit: Don Pettit

Happy Sprout Day
Posted on Jun 15, 2012 10:20:38 AM

April 12
We got new aeroponic bags today. They are a new design, much simpler than the old ones. One corner is cut off and then pushed inwards so it points inside the bag. This makes an opening where the water does not crawl out from capillary action. A piece of foam is placed inside to keep the sides from collapsing so the bag remains puffed up. Our root ball is squeezed through the cut corner so our roots hang inside the puffed up part of the bag. Then about 50 milliliters of water with nutrient tea is injected inside through the opening.

Our roots hang mostly in the air but can grow into water if desired. We like our new bags.

April 19
Our algae friends moved with us into our new aeroponic bags so our roots are once again turning green. I sort of like these little fellows; they tickle my roots when they swim around. Our leaves are happy. It will be awhile before I am ready to bloom again.

Algae growing in an aeroponic bag on the ISS. Credit: Don Pettit

April 20
This is so strange. I overheard my crew wishing Gardener a happy sprout day. Why would anyone want to celebrate the day they sprouted?

Sprouts on the ISS. Credit: Don Pettit

Help for Sunflower
Posted on Jun 18, 2012 10:36:36 AM

April 22
Today was the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower. We set up four cameras in the cupola simultaneously taking pictures. Gardener said there were places on Earth that were doing the same and all these pictures taken together will make a very interesting scientific data set. Since I had been placed next to a window, I was living through 16 periods of day-night every 24 hours. Jet-lagged, I could thus stay awake during the night and help in the observations.

The Lyrid meteor shower from the International Space Station. Credit: Don Pettit

May 1
Gardener has been spending a lot of time playing a computer game. His computer is near our grow light so we can watch him. He plays in the morning before works starts and in the evening after work is over. He must find this relaxing. The game he plays is called “Catch the Dragon”. The best part about this game is that he does not have to put in any quarters.

Brown patches are seen on sunflower leaves on the ISS. Credit: Don Pettit

May 5
Sunflower has brown patch. His leaves are covered with dry, dark blotches. He is not happy. Gardener says it looks like a fungus. I am afraid that if something is not done we are going to lose Sunflower. The crew medical kit is designed for animals not plants so there are no medications for this disease. Gardener is treating Sunflower with a disinfectant wipe that has an antibacterial agent called BZK (Benzalkonium chloride). We do not know if this is going to work. Our spacecraft is designed for animals so life can be a struggle for plants. On the frontier, the answers are not found in the back of the book and sometimes you have to venture into the unknown and improvise.

BZK wipes are used to pat down sunflower leaves on the ISS. Credit: Don Pettit

May 11
The BZK wipes seem to be helping. Gardener pats down Sunflower’s leaves every other day. He does this with the healthy new green ones as well. Sunflower is beginning to smile again. Broccoli and I seem resistant to this so he is not treating us.