Three… Two… One… Launch! This summer three students from the Edith Stein School in Ravensburg, Germany will be sending their science project into space, thanks to the support of BASF. The V3PO project was designed by the students to see if plant cutting can build roots in zero gravity and how those roots might behave over time.
Up till now, experiments conducted in zero gravity have focused on roots grown during seed germination. The question Maria Koch, Raphael Schilling and David Geray want answered is whether vegetative propagation of vegetables is possible in space. This would allow for fresh food on space missions without the need to carry seed.
BASF and NASA both became interested in the project, with BASF providing the scientific support and NASA offering a spot on the International Space Station. This is the first German school project to be accepted by NASA.
“This is perhaps the most extraordinary field experiment that my team and I have ever participated in,” said Dr. Sebastian Rohrer of the Early Fungicide Biology Department of BASF’s Crop Protection division. “We’re eagerly awaiting the launch and are curious about the results.”
To develop a suitable experimental design, the students completed an internship at the BASF Agricultural Center in Limburgerhof. Here they prepared for the experiment that will be performed at the laboratories of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once in space, there is a high probability that differences in temperature and humidity could lead the cuttings to become contaminated by bacteria or fungi. This is the area in which BASF is providing its knowledge – and its products. BASF fungicides will help protect the cuttings from fungal diseases during the research at the ISS, and on the trip there and back.
BASF is the only company providing scientific support. “Our hearts beat for research. We are always striving for novel ways to solve global challenges. This means that we love revolutionary ideas and unconventional thinking. That’s why we are supporting the V3PO team with scientific advice. We will not only get new insights into plant behavior, but also inspiration for new production areas,” said Dr. Harald Rang, Senior Vice President for Research and Development at BASF’s Crop Protection division.
Other sponsors supporting V3PO include: Dreamup, mymicrogravity, the Federal Ministry for the Economy and Energy, the German Center for Air and Space Travel, the business consultancy inside, Airbus, and the Kreissparkasse Ravensburg.