Year 4. This was the 2016-2017 season. With the engineering expertise of our commercial service provider, Space Tango, and support from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), Magnitude was finally headed to the International Space Station! Flown aboard the SpaceX-10 resupply mission, ExoLab-1 launched from Kennedy Space Center’s historic pad 39A on 19 February, 2017, and returned home 30 days later.
The plant that was studied was the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana. The ideal plant for research, A. thaliana is a self-pollinating, small, fast growing plant with a fully mapped genome. The first mission did not quite go as planned as is evidenced from the first images that were returned.
Embarrassing as this first mission was, we’ve been able to build on each subsequent mission. The novel approach we’ve taken with ExoLab send the mother experiment to orbit, while analog experiments are run with daughter experiments anywhere in the world.
Monitoring the temperature, humidity, lux levels, and imaging, learning centers around the world can join in the investigation.
So after 10 years, what’s next for ExoLab? As announced last week, we are opening up the architecture for ExoLab. Now it is time for you to show everyone how these systems can be improved! As we continuously raise the fidelity of each mission, we recommend that you study the research and best practices under development from Committee on the Controlled Environment Technology and Use, and consider how you might share your aggregated data with other data repositories such as NASA’s GeneLab. Interested in developing the future ExoLab? The program will be open to a limited number of engineers and designers in order for us to ensure the robustness of our APIs, security, and interoperability. Sign up on our hackathon page to get more information on ExoLab: NEXT.