Independent Research Lesson Plan

Week 1: Introduction to Astrobotany

Day 1: Discuss astrobotany

Google astrobotany, define astrobotany and watch Season 1 of The Astrobotany Show on YouTube.  Write down any questions you have pertaining to astrobotany. 

Day 2: Head to and see if you can find the answers to the following questions. You can also download this portion using the link below. Scavenger Hunt Worksheet (Color)

  • Define ‘astrobotany’.
  • Approximately when was the term ‘astrobotany’ coined?
  • In what year did the first plant flower and produce seeds in space?
  • What is the model research organism that is frequently used in astrobotany research?
  • Name 3 NASA target candidate crops.
  • Why is it impossible to protect plants from ionizing radiation in space?
  • What stressors must plants deal with in a spaceflight environment?
  • Name the research device that mimics microgravity.
  • What does TOAST stand for?
  • What is TOAST?
  • Personally, why do you think it’s important that we gain a better understanding of growing plants in space?

Day 3: Decide as a class to make an edit on the astrobotany wikipedia page (or not). 

My name is Kai Rasmussen and I manage, I wrote this lesson plan, and I also am one of the main editors of the astrobotany wikipedia page.  See if your class can make an edit to the page.  

Making an edit to wikipedia is easy.  Getting it to stay is hard, but if the contribution is valuable, editors will allow it to stay.  Make your mark on one of the most important websites in the world by contributing to the astrobotany wikipedia page.  

Take a look at what’s already on the page; I started it and wrote about 1/3 of the material, and the other parts are written by people I’ve never met.  We both have something in common: passion to take the time to write about the subject.

A few sentences or even a word can be useful. 

Day 4: What’s on the menu?

The reality of space travel far beyond Earth is that at some point we want to be fully self-sustaining.  This means growing a lot of food in spaceflight environments.  Work with your classmates to consider the following.

Can you come up with a completely plant-based diet that will provide minimum caloric and nutrient intake for astronauts? 

Based on how many plants you need to grow, how much room do you need?

Do you think this is realistic for future spaceflight?  

Day 5: Life Support

You and your classmates have been tasked with building a “bioregenerative life support system” (this is a system that can fully support life using an artificial ecosystem). 

Plants are an essential part of a system like this- they not only provide food for astronauts, they also cycle essential gases and nutrients, and can be therapeutic for humans.   

Work with your classmates or in groups to build your own bioregenerative support system and try to address the following: 

  • How many and what kind of plants need to be grown?
  • How much water will be needed/how to filter water?
  • How to make sure oxygen and carbon dioxide are at appropriate levels to support a human life
  • What kind of lighting is needed
  • What other organisms besides plants are needed in the system?
  • How will these organisms interact with each other?
  • How will these plants and organisms adapt to spaceflight environments?

Week 2: Experimental Design

Week 3: Experimental Design

Week 4: Experiment

Week 5: Experiment

Week 6: Experiment

Week 7: Analysis

Week 8: Conclusion