Melbourne Catholic schools helping NASA discover new foods to grow in space

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15 March 2023

students with their growth chamber
Excited students from Catholic Regional College, Caroline Springs collected their growth chamber and commenced the program with education sessions from plant scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria today. 

Catholic Regional College Caroline Springs, Caroline Springs, and Mount Lilydale Mercy College, Lilydale, will partner with Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) in the Australian pilot of the ‘Growing Beyond Earth’ (GBE) program, aimed at helping NASA find new fresh foods that can successfully be grown and eaten in space.

Students and teachers from both schools will work to test the potential of various plants in specially designed ‘growth chambers’ that replicate the growth system on NASA’s International Space Station.

Students will collect data about germination rates, plant size, edible mass, humidity and light, among other variables, and visited RBGV today to collect their growth chambers and commence the program with education sessions from plant scientists.

Given their high nutritional content despite harsh conditions, the program will focus particularly on identifying and testing the potential of Australian ‘bush’ foods to grow in space.

Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) Acting Executive Director, Dr Edward Simons says the program is a wonderful opportunity for the schools and an exciting partnership for MACS.

‘The opportunity for students to tackle a challenge, situating science and mathematics in a real-world context like this, is a powerful driver for learning’, he said.

‘Similarly, partnerships with organisations such as RBGV and NASA are highly valued by MACS. They provide our students with exposure to deep expertise and role models that can help inspire them to fully flourish as learners.

‘I congratulate the staff and students from Catholic Regional College Caroline Springs and Mount Lilydale Mercy College for taking up this challenge’, Dr Simons said.

The GBE Australian pilot program is a collaboration between MACS, RBGV, NASA, Florida’s Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food. The pilot will extend the GBE program that has been running successfully for six years in the United States.

Interested schools can keep up to date with the program by subscribing to RBGV’s Learning e-News.

Watch this story on ABC TV Weekend Breakfast here: