Astronauts to plant Thai trees in International Space Station

Thailand’s national tree, Ratchapreuk, will be the subject of space experiments aboard the International Space Station. The SpaceX crew carried 370 seeds of the Ratchapreuk tree on its mission to the space station. Astronauts will plant the seeds as part of scientific research into farming in zero gravity.

SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is the first successful private-sector space transport company. On November 15, 2020, the company launched its first fully operational mission sending four astronauts aboard its Crew Dragon capsule to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, handled the launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the first time NASA had launched a privately built and owned manned spacecraft.

One of the International Space Station’s primary purposes is to enable scientists to conduct experiments and research that they can’t carry out on earth for reasons such as the effects of gravity.

Thailand’s research project involving Ratchapreuk trees and basil plants is focused on farming in space. The Kingdom’s National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) is overseeing the project and received cooperation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). JAXA is one of five national space agencies participating in the ISS program.

The Thai research will come under the umbrella of JAXA’s Asian Herbs in Space program. The goal of that program is to observe farming in a zero-gravity environment.

A space flight will bring Ratchapreuk trees and basil plants back to Thailand in four months for study. As part of the experiment, the NSTDA is also overseeing an earth-bound ‘control group’ involving Thai high school students who are planting the same number and types of seeds in terrestrial soil at the same time as the seeds are planted in the ISS.

Researchers will examine the plants grown in both environments to see what they can learn about zero-gravity farming, which could help sustain humans as they eventually explore and learn the possibility of living on other planets.

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