Prepping Seeds for Space Takes Meticulous Planning, Testing, and Steady Hands

Wolverton’s experiment uses mustard seeds, which are widely used as a model organism in plant biology. They have a rapid life cycle and are prolific seed producers. This petri dish (pictured) contains several hundred seeds.

For the flight, Wolverton will mount 14 seeds at a time on rectangular membranes about the size of two postage stamps. The membranes go into seed cassettes (pictured) that have holes to allow moisture in. The chambers eventually will be placed inside LED-lit boxes in a unit aboard the space station.

To ensure the seeds will germinate as needed in-flight, Wolverton and research technician Nathan Madonich ’16 are growing their own in the lab.

In this photo from NASA, astronaut Kate Rubins holds a container like the one that will house the seed cassettes with Wolverton’s experiment.

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