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Great Plant Debate

Design that "flew" on STS-51

by Gerard Heyenga

Description under photo

Plant growth chamber containing wheat plants


photo of gel pack described below
photo of plants in chamber as described below
This is a Nutrient Pack filled with a gel with special nutrients and surrounded by a special membrane that protects the roots but allows for good gas exchange. Because the Nutrient Packs are little (2 inches cubed) a number of them can be placed side-by-side in a typical chamber as the one pictured here that carried four packs planted with seed into space. Here you see the plants after 10 days of growth in microgravity.

photo of roots seen through gel pack photo of roots seen through gel pack

An advantage to the transparent gel is that it allows scientists to watch the root structure.
Can you tell which of the above was grown on STS-51 and which on the ground?

The answer


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