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Controversy surrounding ISS plant research puts future experiments in
jeopardy. Help solidify the future of plants in space. Get involved!
International Space Station Challenge logo

Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Resources

To participate in Farming in Space project

For more Classroom of the Future ISS activities

ISS Plant Research WebQuest

The year is 2015. The collaboration of scientists from all nations on planet Earth has created an international space station (ISS) that has been acclaimed as the most advanced, space-based research lab. Experimental research aboard the ISS has led to advances in medicine, recycling, biotechnology, and crop management. Advances made thus far have helped to realize humanity's goals for the ISS. These goals are:

(1) To validate the potential for future space colonization.
(2) To provide socio-economic benefits to civilizations on Earth.

One area of research that has proven highly successful on the ISS are the plant growth studies. These studies have brought mankind closer than ever to the dream of independent, self-sustaining colonies on other planets and in space. Despite these successes, however, NASA currently faces dissension among scientists advising a Congressional Finance Subcommittee in charge of distributing NASA's funds. Funding and workspace is limited on the ISS, and there is considerable competition for these resources. Opposing scientists argue that other research areas are currently more important than plant research. In addition, they maintain that knowledge gained in previous microgravity plant experiments has already met their intended goals, and funds should be applied to new ground-based experiments.

If the Congressional Finance Subcommittee refuses to give the "go ahead" for more experimentation with plants in space, the future of space colonization and habitation could be in jeopardy. A strong case supporting additional plant research must be clearly and persuasively presented to the subcommittee.

NASA calls upon you to assume a role as a member of a team of scientists to advise the subcommittee. The people of Earth need you to recommend the best course of action to resolve this controversy.


Draft a response to the Congressional Finance Subcommittee and their science advisors detailing your team's response to the argument that no additional plant research is necessary on the ISS. Explain the use of the results of plant research in space, the plant growth cycle, nutrient delivery processes, environmental necessities, and the importance of particular plants. You will need to make a poster presentation complete with data, tables, and pictures detailing these ideas.

Questions to consider:
1. Why look at plants?
2. Is it worth the cost?
3. What knowledge will be gained by further crop growth research?
4. Is knowing the reaction of specific plant species to microgravity important? How? Why?
5. What will we learn about the plant life cycle in space that would benefit Earth?
6. If the goal of NASA-ISS research is space colonization, why is increasing the scope of plant research in space a logical step for controlled-environment experts to consider?
7. What other types of research should be done on the ISS?
8. What type of data management strategies will convince the Congressional subcommittee that you have a strong case?
9. What is the best way to present your argument to convince the Congressional subcommittee to allocate more funds for plant research?


1. You will be assigned to a team of 6 students.
2. Choose a role from the role worksheet.
3. Research your role.
4. Create a comprehensive rubric.
5. Discuss and choose a strategy that argues your point of view.
6. Draft a proposal of your recommendations.
7. Create a poster or PowerPoint® presentation.


A copy of your proposal will be submitted to your teacher and to every other team. Your teacher and the other teams will play the role of the Congressional Finance Subcommittee. Each team member must write at least one part of the proposal.

You will put the pictures you have collected and printed from the Web on a poster or PowerPoint® presentation, created by your communications expert, for a 2 to 3 minute presentation. Your presentation should convince the subcommittee that your proposal is the next logical step in NASA and the ISS's future experiments. Each team member, based upon his or her expertise, should explain why he or she agreed to this recommendation.

You must also include a rubric so the Congressional subcommittee can evaluate both your presentation and proposal. Your rubric should include six comprehensive questions, one from each student, that will be used to evaluate the content of your presentation. The team should compose an additional four questions for the rubric that evaluate the quality of the written proposal and your presentation techniques, such as eye contact and clarity.


The conclusion of your WebQuest will be a class discussion about the most important factors to consider when experts formulate a team proposal for presentation to a subcommittee.

Questions to Consider:
What are the most important teamwork issues?
What is your definition of teamwork?
How did you resolve conflicting opinions and viewpoints?
What was the most/least persuasive part of your presentation? Why?
How would you improve upon your argument or presentation?


Teacher Resource Page

Student Resource Page

International Space Station Challenge(TM) is a Web-based curriculum supplement for students in grades 9 to 12. Additional plant science and engineering activities as well as computer-based simulations are available that link to Space Station research. Find out more at http://www.cotf.edu/iss/activities/farminspace.asp.

Copyright© 1997-2001 by Wheeling Jesuit University/NASA Classroom of the Future™. All rights reserved.

Introduction -
Familiarize yourself with the situation. Task - Find out
what you can do to solve the problem. Process -
Follow a step-by-step plan of your tasks. Evaluate -
Present your suggestioins to the Congrassional subcommittee! Conclude -
Discuss issues and questions with your classmates. Research -
Need to find something? Get pointed in the right direction.

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