Seeds in space? PCMS students test science skills in NASA-sponsored ‘Tomatosphere’ program

Published 10:00 pm Friday, October 7, 2016


Sixth grade science students at Polk County Middle School recently had the opportunity to assist with data collection for an experiment sponsored by NASA, along with other organizations, through a program called Tomatosphere.

The effort was a Citizen Science project where anyone can assist in data collection for real experiments. Students were sent tomato seeds in two packets. One packet had been on the International Space Station for five weeks while the other packet remained on Earth.

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Students were asked to germinate all seeds, determine how many in each packet germinated and submit the results online. PCMS data showed that 71 percent of one packet germinated while only 64 percent of the seeds in the other packet germinated.

Once the results were submitted, students received an email telling them which packet of seeds was the control group (the seeds that stayed on Earth) and which packet actually went into space.

And the results? The packet that had the higher rate of germination (71 percent of them germinated) were the ones that went in space! So being in space for five weeks had some type of effect on the germination rate of the seeds.

Why would that be? Not even NASA knows for sure, but the current theory is something about the seeds being affected by cosmic radiation, in a favorable way.

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