Giving roots and shoots their space: The Advanced Plant Habitat
The Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), a recent addition to the International Space Station, is the largest growth chamber aboard the orbiting laboratory. Roughly the size of a mini-fridge, the habitat is designed to test which growth conditions plants prefer in space and provides specimens a larger root and shoot area. This space in turn will allow a wider variety of crops to grow aboard the station. Thus far, the habitat has been used to grow and study Arabidopsis, small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard, and Dwarf Wheat. Its monitoring and environmental control systems regulate temperature, oxygen, and carbon dioxide levels, and the system settings can be adjusted for growing different types of plants. Although the system is largely autonomous, the crew adds water to the chamber and changes atmospheric elements such as an ethylene scrubber, carbon dioxide scrubber & bottles, and filters. All systems can be monitored and controlled from a computer on the ground that interfaces directly with the habitat to relay instructions and detailed adjustments to ensure investigation integrity.
Because gravity is a constant downward force on Earth, researchers take advantage of the microgravity environment of the space station to achieve a clearer perspective of plant growth habits. Gravity is one of the major cues plants use to guide their growth, but microgravity can act as a kind of mute button that suppresses the role of gravity, enabling researchers to see what other cues take charge.
The APH also has an upgraded LED system that goes beyond the red, blue and green LEDs used at low, medium and high settings in the Veggie plant habitat. APH is equipped with white, red, blue, green, and far red LEDs and has a wide variety of settings capable of producing light from zero to 1,000 micromoles, a unit of measurement used to describe the intensity of a light source. By expanding the spectrum of light, researchers can broaden the types of plants they study in space and tailor the light to that plant’s unique needs because each of the lights within APH can be set to any level within that range.
“It’s more of a fine-tuned instrument,” said project manager Bryan Onate. If a team wants a certain amount of light for an investigation, we can provide that.”
Humidity and temperature can also be manipulated to test plant threshold responses for both ideal and inhospitable growth environments.
- Citation: Web link
Not to change the topic here:
If Humans Want To Colonize Other Planets, We Need To Perfect Space Cuisine
Back in the early days of space travel, astronauts squeezed most of their meals out of tubes. A sugary, orange-flavored drink, sold commercially as Tang, was considered a tasty treat. Food was fuel, and little more.
However, eating in space has become much less a chore now. In fact, astronauts can dine on a variety of freeze-dried meals after they’ve been rehydrated with hot water. And, as of a few years ago, crews in the International Space Station (ISS) are able to savor a taste of food that’s actually fresh.
“On the space station right now, they are growing vegetables, lettuce in particular,” says Carie Lemack, CEO of DreamUp, a public benefit corporation that provides space-based education and research opportunities for students. “We’re seeing the space salad. That’s remarkable.”
Lemack will discuss the successes and challenges of producing food in space this Friday at Future Con, a Smithsonian magazine event that celebrates the intersection of science, technology and science fiction. Future Con is a part of Awesome Con, Washington, D.C.’s annual comics and pop culture convention at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from Friday, March 30 to Sunday, April 1.
Researchers have their sights set on a space cuisine that is anything but bland, experimenting with whiskey distilled in space, cheese fermented in microgravity and basil grown in a hydrofuge. Lemack will be joined by Sam Anas, a scientist who has been researching plants for more than 40 years and is now a senior agricultural biologist for BASF, the German chemical company, and Valkyrie Falciani, who while a student at Stockton University in New Jersey helped develop an experiment, “Spores in Space,” that was conducted on the space station last year.
- Publisher: Smithsonian
- Author: Randy Rieland
- Twitter: @smithsonianmag
- Citation: Web link
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‘The Expanse’ Is Lapping Its Science Fiction Competition
The third season of The Expanse, Syfy’s ambitious space opera, begins on Venus. It picks up right where Season 2 left off, in the aftermath of a humanity-altering, semi-supernatural event in which a research ship is immaculately disassembled and its crew is left suspended in midair after making contact with a mysterious biological substance. The action then pans to Earth, where there’s discourse over whether recent actions by Martians (that is, humans who colonized and live on Mars) are a prelude to war. Out on Mars at the same time, similar paranoiac conversations are ongoing about ‘Earthers.’ Finally, we see that Earth and Martian ships are also duking it out over Jupiter. Just like that, interplanetary war has begun.
The opening is a massive, solar-system-wide tour of The Expanse played out in miniature’and quite simply, it’s awesome to watch. In just two seasons’Season 3 premieres on Wednesday night’the show has quickly become one of the most compelling small-screen sci-fi shows in the past decade.
But that’s not for a lack of competition. In the past 12 months, there’s been a boom in science fiction: the debuts of Altered Carbon, Counterpart, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and Star Trek: Discovery; new seasons of Black Mirror and Stranger Things; and in the next couple of weeks, Netflix’s rebooted Lost in Space and the second season of HBO’s Westworld premiere. That’s an overwhelming amount of mostly good science fiction. But hear me out: The Expanse is better than all of these shows. Need proof? Thomas Jane is in it and he has the most hideous haircut I’ve ever seen.
Need more proof than that? Fine. Here are five other ways that The Expanse excels over the rest of science-fiction television.
It also helps that The Expanse, like Thrones, begins small before widening its scope. While mankind has been split up into three factions’those living on Earth, those on Mars, and folks around the asteroid belt who are known as Belters’200 years in the future, the action initially keys in on only two things: (1) a ragtag group of survivors from the Canterbury, an ice freighter that is blown up after answering a mysterious distress call, and (2) a Belter detective (Thomas Jane and the beguiling haircut) who’s attempting to solve a missing persons case that’s somehow connected to the explosion.
- Publisher: The Ringer
- Date: 2018-04-11T06:00:02-04:00
- Author: Miles Surrey
- Twitter: @ringer
- Citation: Web link
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