This is Kai Rasmussen’s blog.  He is the webmaster for astrobotany.com, and UW molecular biology research undergrad.  These are updates about the process, if you are interested.

Here at astrobotany.com, we’ve touched on some of the ways education is changing, and how educators are adjusting to best fit the needs of a new generation of scientists.

Article: Astrobotany and the Future of Science Education

Inquiry-based learning is not only cool, it’s productive.  We need classrooms to perform research.  Massive parallel cloud research is the future.  And to complement it we should let kids control satellites from the internet.

I know, I know, it’s kind of a crazy idea, but it’s one that I’m really interested in.  One of the missions we’ve been promoting here at astrobotany.com is getting high school students to start performing real research.  It’s something that was a far-away concept when I was in high school.  I remember my AP Physics teacher telling us that we had to sign every page of our lab book, you know, in case we came up with a novel idea.  I scoffed at that notion.  A high school junior making a physics discovery in AP?  Yeah, right.

Nowadays, it’s becoming more realistic.

What if a classroom could control a satellite with plants onboard, and remotely experiment on it?  How cool would that be?

I’m picturing a small satellite with a set of plants that can be watered and cared for by machine.  Little gardens, floating in space.

The first place we start is by lowering the cost of satellite launch.  This is already a trend, with many hobbyists being able to launch a CubeSat (miniature satellite) for $10-20,000 dollars.  But it’s not realistic.  The real problem is the hardware required to remotely care for and watch the plants.  The costs are enormous, and our technology is not there yet, but it will be.

This week I’ll be meeting with the Madison West High School Rocketry Team to set up an experiment to go up on a rocket launch.  We’re going to study effects of rocket launch/travel on rhizobia.  We’ll design the protocol and prepare the samples.  I’ll keep you updated on this.

If we can have high schoolers launching rockets with real astrobotany experiments on board, the satellite idea isn’t so bizarre.  We should seek to achieve a goal like this.  How cool would it be for a student to go home and tell their parents they controlled a satellite from their computer?

Answer: very cool.  So keep your eye out for the astrobotany remote satellite page in the “near” future.

Let’s grow plants in space.