Student Topic:

Capturing Carbon Dioxide for Survival on Earth and in Space

Learning objective:

Based on grade level, students will use scientific inquiry to learn about the importance of the carbon cycle on Earth and in space.

Grade range for general plant science curriculum: K-5
Grade range for environmental science curriculum: 6-12+

Student investigation:

How can you capture the most carbon by growing alfalfa?

In this inquiry-based investigation, students will design an experiment to capture the most carbon by growing the largest alfalfa plants, a versatile forage and legume crop known for high edible biomass production, carbon sequestration, soil rejuvenation, and potential for biofuel.

Driving a mission for change, students will become climate change solutionaries experimenting with alfalfa on a small scale in a classroom experiment and then can plan for a larger impact with a school garden of alfalfa. Concurrently, they will learn about space life support systems and food crop production. Plus, students can opt to get their hands dirty by using local soils to evaluate soil health and productivity. Let’s compare soils globally and determine the resilience of alfalfa to grow under varying nutrient conditions.

A message from:

Dr. Sian Proctor

Dr. Sian Proctor was launched into Earth orbit, on September 15, 2021, as the pilot of the Crew Dragon space capsule. This mission was the Inspiration4 private orbital spaceflight.



ExoLab-10 Mission Timeline

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Carbon sequestration of Medicago sativa and/or Medicago Truncatula while under the stress of spaceflight for consideration in biofuel production, bioregenerative life support systems, and edible biomass.

Student Data:

ExoLab Participants: Measure CO2 levels and plant growth (roots, stems, leaves biomass)

Student Kit and Non-ExoLab Participants: Measure the plants (roots, stems, leaves biomass)

Data and observations will influence the flight experiment set-up for ExoLab-10, which launches on SpX-26 on November 15, 2022 and returns to Earth at the end of the year after about 45 days in orbit. The mission schedule is subject to change due to weather and or equipment.

Student Collaboration:

We need your help!

Share what you know and learn about your local soil with
students and researchers around the world.


ExoLab Growth Lab

The dimensions of the ExoLab device both terrestrially and in-orbit are based on the common CubeSat specification, which standardizes satellite payloads in an approximate 10 cm cuboid format. ExoLab is in a 2U format, which means that its dimensions are 10 x 10 x 22 cm, approximately.

Within this compact frame are a series of sensors to capture, record, and report data, including images, as well as a system to keep the test organisms alive. All of these operate autonomously and continuously. More details.


ExoLab Growth Lab

Working with JGI and other researchers, flight experiment protocols will be developed to grow alfalfa in space and evaluate its growth in a closed, microgravity environment compared to the 1G of Earth. With a goal to sequester carbon in both environments, students will learn how plants are one part of solving the climate change crisis as well as how they can be used in bioregenerative life support systems in spacecraft. The use of symbiotic organisms, growing media, lighting conditions, and experimental set-up will be dependent on ground trials and advice from researchers.




The U.S. National Laboratory manages the International Space Station National Laboratory as a public service in order to benefit the U.S. taxpayer and to foster a scalable and sustainable low Earth orbit economy. We leverage our core competencies, facilitate public-private partnerships, and utilize the platform capabilities and unique operating environment of the space station. We create demand, incubate in-space business ventures, provide access for and awareness of fundamental science and technological innovation, and promote science literacy of the future workforce.





The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is committed to advancing genomics in support of DOE missions related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and cleanup. JGI provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges. 

By growing alfalfa in space, this crop could be evaluated for:

  • Biofuel production

  • Biomass production to promote regolith to soil development on the Moon or Mars

  • Bioregenerative life support through removal of carbon dioxide

  • And edible biomass as a supplemental food source for astronauts


Join the ExoLab-10 Research Team

You are needed on this mission for survival on Earth and in space. Complete the form below to request a complimentary preflight training session as well as receive mission status reports. Or over on the right, select a briefing time with Ted Tagami, CEO and ExoLab-10 Flight Director.

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From "K to Gray", can develop a bespoke interplanetary experience for your country, state, or district. Schedule time with us to discuss how we might help foster capabilities and skills for the next generation on Earth and Beyond for deployment in 2024/25. View some of our projects.