600,000 Tomatosphere™ seeds were launched into space on the SpaceX's Dragon on April 14, 2015. The seeds will spend 5 weeks in space on the International Space Station (ISS) before returning home on May 21. They will orbit the Earth approximately 550 times before being made ready for next year’s Tomatosphere™ program, operated by Let’s Talk Science in Canada and First the Seed Foundation in the US.
Thanks to the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, we have a rare glimpse of our tomato seeds in orbit in NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s care. These space-faring seeds will be distributed to about 18,000 classrooms in Canada and the US during the 2015-16 school year. Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko recently began a historic one-year mission in space, a stepping stone to future missions to Mars and beyond. Future crews on long-duration missions (a mission to Mars would likely take 2-3 years in total) will need to be self-sufficient, which means growing their own food. In the closed environment of a spacecraft, plants could also make a big contribution to life-support systems.
That’s where Tomatosphere™ comes into the picture. Since 2001, about 3 million students in Canada and the US have helped scientists gather data to find out, all the while learning the basics of the scientific method. The work done by these budding student scientists could very well play a part in feeding future space travelers on the long journey to Mars.
To find out more about this award-winning program and its consortium of partners, visit tomatosphere.letstalkscience.ca.