Two Victorian Catholic schools will partner with Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in the Australian pilot of the ‘Growing Beyond Earth’ program, aimed at helping NASA find new fresh foods that can be grown and eaten in space.

Students and teachers from Catholic Regional College, Caroline Springs and Mount Lilydale Mercy College, Lilydale will work to test the potential of various plants in specially designed ‘growth chambers’ that replicate the growth system on NASA’s International Space Station.

Students will collect data about germination rates, plant size, edible mass, humidity and light, among other variables. The visited the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria recently to collect their growth chambers and commence the program with education sessions from plant scientists.

Given their high nutritional content, despite harsh conditions, the program will focus particularly on identifying and testing the potential of Australian ‘bush’ foods to grow in space.

Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) acting executive director Dr Edward Simons said the program is a wonderful opportunity for the schools and an exciting partnership for MACS.

“The opportunity for students to tackle a challenge, situating science and mathematics in a real-world context like this, is a powerful driver for learning,” he said.

“Similarly, partnerships with organisations such as the Royal Botanic Gardens and NASA are highly valued by MACS. They provide our students with exposure to deep expertise and role models that can help inspire them to fully flourish as learners.

“I congratulate the staff and students from Catholic Regional College Caroline Springs and Mount Lilydale Mercy College for taking up this challenge,” Dr Simons said.

Read more on the MACS website and watch the story on ABC TV Weekend Breakfast.

Caption: Students from two Melbourne Catholic schools are learning to propagate basil plants that could end up on the plates of NASA’s astronauts at the International Space Station. Photo courtesy of Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools.