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Shuttle/Mir Banner

S/MORE WebChat

Date: December 18, l996

Featuring: Frank B. Salisbury, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator on Project Greenhouse
Utah State University


olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 8:56AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [42 ] Good morning, Mr. Salisbury, though it's already late evening in St.Petersburg.

Andrea/NASA/ChatHost: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 8:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . [43 ] This morning we welcome Frank B. Salisbury, Ph.D. the Principal Investigator on Project Greenhouse at Utah State University. He is a botanist and specializes as a plant physiologist (studies how plants function). As the project leader on the Shuttle/Mir "Project Greenhouse" he works with three other scientists at Utah State, two scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center and a group of scientists at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, Russia. A number of engineers and others at NASA Ames and in Moscow keep things running smoothly. The goal of the project is to grow a special short wheat called Super-Dwarf (only 30 cm, about 1 ft, tall) in a small growth chamber on Mir through a complete life cycle and then, from a second planting, to get some fresh plants that can be frozen in liquid nitrogen and returned to Earth for analysis.

Duncan Atchison/NASA: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 8:58AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [44 ] Hi Andrea - no, all yours, I'm just interested to hear more about the wheat!

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:01AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [45 ] I finally figured out how to type something before the refresh takes away the box! Like I said, this is a new experience for me, and I have to learn how to do it. Olga, you say that you have trouble with English. I've been studying Russian for a few years, off and on, and I still can't even carry on a simple conversation. But I do speak German.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:02AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [46 ] We'd like to tell Mr. Salisbury that we appreciate his long life in science and his active interest in so many fields of studies.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:03AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [47 ] Frank, what about the weather in Utah? It's very frosty in St.Petersburg now.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:03AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [48 ] About our wheat: We call it Super-Dwarf because it is only about 30 cm tall. That makes it possible to grow it in the growth chamber, called Svet in Russian, that was built by scientists and engineers in Bulgaria working with scientists in Moscow. Otherwise, the wheat is not good for the outside fields because it is too short to harvest, and its yields are low.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:05AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [49 ] The weather is also very frosty in almost all of the United States. It is much colder than usual for this time of year. In Logan, it is about -15 deg. C right now!

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:06AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [50 ] We wonder if you worked with Russian specialists.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:06AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [51 ] It's a little bit warmer in SPb.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:08AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [52 ] We work now with several Russian specialists in Moscow. Vladimir Sytchev is the head of the laboratory, and Margarita Livinskiskh is a plant physiologist who is deeply involved in our project. We have made many visits to Russia, and they (about 10 Russian specialists) have come to the United States. We talk with them on the telephone, all together in a "teleconference," about once each week.

Duncan: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:08AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [53 ] It's a lot warmer in California, Sunny and 65 yesterday.

Jason/Park Middle: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:09AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [54] Have you been able to grow the wheat as you expected?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:09AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [55 ] Saint Petersburg is a very beautiful city. I have been there about four times, the first time in 1975 at the International Botanical Congress.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:09AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [56 ] Mr. Salisbury, we participated in Great Plant Debate. Have you seen our project? Does it help you to solve your problems with the wheat :-)

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:11AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [57 ] Yes, our wheat grew in Svet in Mir very well. It is the first time that wheat has been grown through a complete life cycle in space although Prof. Merkies from Lithuania grew a tiny mustard plant through a life cycle in 1982. His plants were very sick, however! Ours were surprisingly healthy! At least 400 seeds were collected from about 32 plants.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:12AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [58 ] Thank you for the warm words.

Duncan: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:13AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [59 ] Frank, why can't we just go ahead and have John Blaha plant some of those seeds?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:14AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . .. [60 ] Svet is a small chamber with about 0.1 square meters of growing area for our wheat. Sorry, the phone just rang, and I had to answer it.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:14AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [61 ] Our congratulations!

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:16AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [62 ] Duncan asks why we can't have John Blaha, the American Astronaut, plant some of the seeds. Maybe we could, but so far, NASA as not given permission. To plant them in the standard way, they would have to be treated with cold in a refrigerator for about four days, and then they would have to be glued to a little plastic strip in just the right way. Some seeds were planted after our harvest, but they were seeds taken to Mir several months ago.

Jason/Park Middle: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:18AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [63] Why does NASA need to give permission?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:18AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [64 ] Duncan suggested the other day that maybe we could plants just a few of those seeds in a piece of wet towel or something. We will see if that is possible -- but I doubt it, partially because John Blaha and the cosmonauts are so busy doing other things.

Duncan: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:20AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [65 ] I guess the danger is also, that if the seeds didn't grow in the wet towel, then everyone might get really worried, it might look bad.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:21AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [66 ] Mr. Sulisbury, what do you think about possibility of such experiments on Mars?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:21AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [67 ] NASA has to give permission for everything! And sometimes I also wonder why! Of course, NASA has provided the money for our part of the experiment, and that has now been about three million dollars! This was mostly to build some very special equipment to measure the environment. NASA is coordinating this project; actually NASA bought time on Mir from our Russian hosts, which is why they can do the coordinating. The people at NASA Ames who do this have done an excellent job! We appreciate them very much.

Jason/Park Middle: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:22AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [68] What is next for your project?

Mercedes: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [2 ] Hello, Dr. Salisbury, Olga, Duncan! Olga have you had any good exchanges with classrooms in the US?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [1 ] It would be _much_ easier to grow plants on Mars than in Mir because the gravity on Mars (about 1/3 of Earth's gravity) would cause water to drain through the substrate (soil). Because water does not move through the substrate in Mir, that is one of the very difficult things about growing plants in space.

Mercedes: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [2 ] Hello, Dr.Salisbury, Olga, Duncan! Olga have you had any good exchanges with classrooms in the US?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:25AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [3 ] Our experiment worked well because we had more light than has been available in earlier experiments (we had about 1/5 of full sunlight) and because we had instruments to measure the water in the substrate. This kept us from adding too much so the roots couldn't get oxygen or too little so they dried out.

: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [5 ] How would you simulate this on Earth?

Andrea/NASAChatHost: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [6 ] Mercedes: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [2 ] Hello, Dr. Salisbury, Olga, Duncan! Olga have you had any good exchanges with classrooms in the US?

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:27AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [7 ] Mr. Salisbury, we are greatly interested in your opinion about UFO. We know, that you are deeply believing person, does it help you to be a scientist and explorer?

Duncan: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:28AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [8 ] One question that has come up in our student designs - what is the best way to get rid of the heat generated by the lights in the growth chambers?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:29AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [9 ] You can't simulate the substrate water condition on Earth exactly, which is why it is necessary to do experiments in space. Of course, it is not just the substrate. The plants on Earth are always responding to gravity by growing up, so it would not have been surprising if plants could not grow without gravity. That is why our experiment was so important. Maybe there were steps in the life cycle that absolutely required gravity. Our experiments shows that there were no such steps.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:29AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [10 ] Mercedes, we are just planning our exchanges, hope they will be a success.

Jason/Park Middle: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:31AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [11] How long will you keep working on this project?

science: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:31AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [12 ] Frank where are you?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:31AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [13 ] I did spend many years (about 1962 to 1978) studying UFOs. I never said that I was a "believer." I was a scientist attempting to study the subject. I cannot explain UFOs at this point, but there were some very spectacular things that people in eastern Utah saw, and I don't think they were dreaming or not telling the truth -- but how does one prove that? Because of such questions, I finally gave up the study of UFOs.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:33AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [14 ] Were there other questions while I was talking about UFOs?

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:34AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [15 ] Mr. Salisbury, what helps you most in your life?

Duncan: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:35AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [16 ] I'll repeat one that may have gotten lost: One question that has come up in our student designs - what is the best way to get rid of the heat generated by the lights in the growth chambers?

Mercedes: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:35AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [17 ] Dr. Salisbury, I met Dave Wilson, one of your former students, that currently works with various hydroponics systems here at AMES. He showed me all of his plants and explained all of the diferent methods of hydroponics he is testing. It was very interesting. But in space how do the roots of the plant know which way to grow?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:35AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [18 ] Someone asked how long I will work on this project. Although it is difficult for me to believe, I am 70 years old! I will retire at the end of next June, so this is my last project. I'm happy that it was such a success. (We tried to grow wheat in Mir during 1995, but lights failed, and the plants almost died. There were _no_ seeds or even wheat flowers! That was an interesting result, but this year is much better.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:37AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [19 ] About the lights in plant growth chambers: The heat from the lights is certainly a very big problem. One must use fans to flow air over the lights (as in Svet), or sometimes there is a layer of flowering water below the lights. That is necessary when the lights are very bright and there is much heat.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:38AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [20 ] Ooops! That is _flowing_ (moving) water, not "flowering" water. Sorry. I do too much thinking about flowering of our wheat.

science: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:39AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [21 ] Have you ever worked with animals?

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:40AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [22 ] Mr. Salisbury, what is your prognosis about the full life-supplying system? How much time will it take to reach the result?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:40AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [23 ] That was a good question about what helps me most in my life. I would have to think hard about that because so many things help. Although I don't believe in UFOs in a religious sense, I do believe in God and take my religion very seriously -- I even teach a class each Sunday about religion (although I will only do it one more time and then someone else must take over). I have written two books about religion.

Jason/Park Middle: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:42AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [24] Will you write more books when you retire?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:43AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [25 ] No, I have not done experiments with animals. There was an experiment with quail eggs as part of the Shuttle/Mir program, but I know almost nothing about it. How long will it be before plants can be grown in space for astronauts? It will surely be a long time but the International Space Station will make it much easier to do experiments with plants to solve the problems. Our experiment is just a beginning because many conditions could have been improved.

science: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:43AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [26 ] Frank what else do you do?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:44AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [27 ] I do hope to write more books when I retire. I want to write a book about how wonderful living things are -- how complex and intricate. I think God had a strong hand in creating living things; it just couldn't happen by chance.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:46AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [28 ] My wife and I hope to go on a mission to a German speaking country right after I retire. This will be for 18 months. When we get back, we will build a home in a mountain valley where I can write those books -- and also do some sculpture and photography (mostly of people), which I love to do.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:46AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [29 ] And what about Darwin's Theory?

Jason/Park Middle: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:47AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [30] To write your book will you travel - or stay in Utah and write about the plants there?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:48AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [31 ] Darwin's theory of natural selection surely works in nature. Things that are best suited to survive tend to survive; mutations that make organisms less suitable may lead to their death! But if evolution is to work with God's help, there must be a source of _good_ mutations enough to make it possible. I have done mathematical calculations that show how unlikely this is.

Jason/Park Middle: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:49AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [32] What has been the most difficult part of your job?

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:49AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [33 ] Ooops again, I meant "if evolution is to work without God's help...." One makes mistakes when one types as fast as possible.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:51AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [34 ] That is a hard question -- about what is most difficult about my job. Probably it is writing the many reports that are needed and otherwise doing the administration that is required. It is much more fun to do science instead! And to travel to many places related to my job.

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:52AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [35 ] Mr. Salisbury, are you going to visit St. Petersburg some day? We'd be glad to see you in our school.

: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:54AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [37 ] When is Cecilia Wigley loging on?

Jason/Park Middle: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:54AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [38] I am glad you had a good project - I have to change classes now. Thanks for answering my questions.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:54AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [39 ] I would _love_ to come back to Saint Petersburg. I have wandered for hours through the Winter Palace, ridden on the subway, and visited many other great places in St. Petersburg. I don't know when I might get back there, but I would love to go!

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [40 ] Looks like our time is about up. Thanks for the many interesting questions about my life as well as our experiment!

Cecilia/NASA: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [41 ] Hi, this is Cecilia. I'm online.

Frank: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:57AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [42 ] Goodby, and thanks again for a good web chat -- my first one!

olga\International school, Russia: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:57AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [43 ] Mr. Salisbury, we are so glad we had an oppotunity to speak to you and to hear you. We wish you further success in your work and many good books to write and many places to visit yet. You are welcome to Saint Petersburg!

Andrea/NASA/ChatHost: . . . . Wed, Dec 18, 9:58AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [44 ] This has been a great chat -- Frank thank you so much for your time. We congratulate you on your success and wish you well in your upcoming projects!!


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