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English Description of V3PO Project

English Description of V3PO Project

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We also have a description of our project in english. If you don't speak german you can find all the information about the project and about how Crowdfunding with Sciencestarter works in this blog. 

What is the subject of this project? / What is this project about?

Is it possible to produce large quantities of high-quality vegetables on a space station, thereby ensuring astronauts on long duration missions a continuous supply of fresh vegetables?

This is the question we want to answer!

You're probably asking yourselves why “vegetative plant propagation”?
Many types of plants reproduce by sowing their seeds ("generative propagation"). However, with seed-reproduction, the desired characteristics are not always consistently and uniformly preserved in the successive generations. In contrast, a uniform crop can be achieved through the use of plant cuttings (vegetative propagation). In addition, vegetative propagation ensures a crop even when the plants only produce a few viable seeds.
Under normal gravitational conditions on Earth, roots and leaves form on cuttings. The plant roots grow towards the Earth's center, in the direction of gravity, and the sprouts, in contrast, grow towards the light source (the Sun). Until now, experiments conducted in microgravity have focused on studying the growth of the seedlings' roots. However, in contrast to a seedling, cuttings do not have a root system. We want to know if cuttings are also capable of forming roots in microgravity. Specifically, we want to know: 1) Do sprout cells differentiate to root cells, and 2) How do the roots, sprouts and leaves develop in microgravity.
For this reason, we would like to conduct a vegetative propagation experiment on the ISS and compare our results with a reference experiment running parallel on Earth. Our experiment uses leafed, herbacious shoot cuttings that have been put in a test medium. The cuttings are in 2 small experiment containers ( the AFEx Habitat), which each have two compartments, and is contributed by NASA and the company Intrinsyx. The experiment box is already being used for biological experiments on the ISS.
To ensure the success of our experiment, we are currently developing an appropriate experimental design for the ISS. That is, we are developing a method to achieve a consistent root system in the shoots and a consistent shooting of the reserve buds – without fungal infestation – during the foreseen 25-30 day mission using the AFEx Habitat in the ISS environment.

What are our goals and what is our target audience?

Our goal is to perform our experiment on the ISS, in order to gain further knowledge on plant growth and plant physiology in microgravity. This would be an important step towards the ultimate goal of growing and generating plants on a space station.
With our research project, we will be participating in “Jugend forscht”, Germany's most well-known competition for young academics students. At the competition, we will be presenting our project with a self-made exhibit to an independent jury. We have also set ourselves the goal of acquiring scientific methods, in order to increase our knowledge out of the classroom.
Our research results not only are interesting for botanical research, but also yield insights into the understanding of plant cultivation and generation in microgravity.

Why should someone support our project?

  • With the financial support, we would like to finance the flight to the ISS, so that we can implement our idea.
  • Our project is the first German student-project to be included in NASA's educational program. We already have the official confirmation from the company NanoRacks that our project can begin as soon as we have the funding.
  • Our research project should help answer the question if astronauts on a long duration mission can be supplied with fresh food and how plant generation is affected by the space environment.
  • We would like to show other young people that it is possible to fulfill dreams through dedication, curiosity and determination.

What will happen with the funding?

Your financial support will cover the costs for the companies NanoRacks (NR) and CSS-Dynamac and will be used for:

  • Organization and determination of the mission process.
  • Preparation of the cuttings and the experiment in the laboratories in Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
  • Transport of the cutting to the ISS, implementation of the experiment on the space station and the return transport of the cuttings via the return capsule.
  • The foreseen launch possibility is currently SpX-9 launched end of this year 2015.


If we reach funding of over 50,000€, we will use the remaining money for:

  • Improvement of the AFEx habitats
  • Travel costs (air fare, lodging at KSC)

Who is backing the project?

We, Maria Koch, Raphael Schilling and David Geray, are three 12th-grade students studying in the agricultural high-school program at the Edith-Stein School in Ravensburg, Germany.

Our research work is supported by:

  • Our technological side: Christian Bruderrek (Master of Engineering), currently a project manager, who develops and flies life science experiments in space. He is performing the entire technical organization and coordination necessary for the mission.
  • Our project leader: Brigitte Schürmann (Master of Agricultural Engineering), currently a teacher at the Edith-Stein-School. Since 2007 she has successfully led a total of six groups, via the school's laboratory work group, to the Jugend forscht competition in the biology division and has thus gained a lot of experience as an advisor. As a horticulturalist, she has a close connection and insight into the topic. Her practical and theoretical knowledge is of great use to the project.

More information about how Crowdfunding with Sciencestarter works can be found here.

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English Description of V3PO Project
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