Christina M. Johnson is a plant biologist with her mind fixed in space. In April of 2010 she watched her plants blast into orbit on the Space Shuttle Discovery. She spent the next several years analyzing those samples for her PhD, where she learned about the impact of microgravity on the cellular structure and molecular functions in young plants. She is currently a fellow in the NASA Postdoctoral Program, working with Dr. Raymond Wheeler’s Space Crop Production team at Kennedy Space Center. Her project involves collaboration with the USDA to grow microgreens in simulated microgravity, with a goal of getting microgreen crops ready for spaceflight applications.
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Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the poly greens podcast. I'm Joe Swartz from am, hydro, along with Nick greens and the Nick greens grow team. And we've got some more exciting things to talk about today, and we've got an awesome guest. We have Christina Johnson, she's a plant biologist and a fellow in the NASA post-doctorate program is sure.
Dr. Raymond wheelers space, crop production team at the Kennedy space center. And so we know what we're going to be talking about today. We'll be talking about food production in space and plants in space, uh, which is something we get a lot of questions about and a lot of, uh, viewer, uh, enlisted comments about.
So we're really excited to have Christina here today. So, Christina, thanks very much for joining us today. Hi, thank you for having me. So, so it's a little bit about your background. Um, a lot of people, you know, are, are, are interested in the research that's being done. We had Dr. Gary Stewart, um, uh, also been working with NASA, um, a lot of interest in that.
Um, how did you get to this point? Like where did you, what got you started in agriculture and then controlled environment ag and space? Well, I started off with the garden. Uh, a backyard and, um, it ended up becoming a bit more of a garden, more of a garden as I was growing up. And then, uh, went away to college and I was studying humanities and I was like, you know, uh, this isn't really my thing.
And then I realized that plants was the thing I could study. All I was under the impression with biology. I had to be like a nurse or a doctor to study biology. I didn't realize that you could specialize in plants. And once I learned that I was just all over it. Um, so I was two years into my undergraduate degree and I had that.
One biology class by a botanist. And I was so interested in everything that he was teaching in that class. He had everything done with the, uh, plants focus, and that was just my passion. Uh, I ended up going to his office hours. At the end of one of his lectures. And I was like, Hey, you mentioned this little bit of research you were doing with your students.
And I'm interested in learning more about that. And he was like, well, you're my first student ever in like 30 years, let's come to office hours or so congratulations on that. You're also the first who's ever asked for additional literature. And so he like opened his file cabinet and started handling, handing me all this literature.
And I was just so excited. He's like, you know, um, there's a spot open in my lab for an undergraduate researcher. And so I started, um, working in his lab and then he retired and I was like, oh, this is so disappointing. Um, I don't know. You know what I'm going to do without, without this professor. And I ended up, um, dropping out of school and I went back home and I, uh, worked for a couple of years and I was trying to find a different path, but I kept getting back to plants and I was a bookkeeper.
I was a cashier at a grocery store. I was all sorts of things. And then, um, I just got to the point where I, I ended up getting a job in a chemistry lab, environmental chemistry lab when I was washing dishes. And I was like, you know, this whole chemistry thing, I wonder about the biochemistry of plants and, and.
I was, uh, I was chatting with my boyfriend at the time. Who's now my husband. And I was like, you know, this, this biochemistry, thing's kind of interesting. I don't just want to be washing dishes. I want to look more into, you know, plants and the, how, what the plants are doing with all of this stuff. And, and he was like, you know, you really should.
Get back to school, you're too smart to not have an undergraduate degree. And I was like, oh, oh, I guess I should finish that degree. And I applied for schools in California, um, tied to all the UC schools and I got rejected from all of them, except for one of the one I happened to get into is UC Berkeley, which is a pretty good school.
Um, Went to the school site on scene had never visited it before. And I walked into the botanical garden and I said, I want to do plants in my spare time. I have to take this other coursework too, but I really just want to do plants. And they gave me an internship at the, not really an internship, a volunteer position at the botanical garden that then turned into credit hours.
And then I also got a job in a botany lab, uh, looking at floral development. And then I, um, So I was really living my dream. Once I was able to go to school, I got a scholarship to go to school, a grant to go to school. So it was pretty well paid for. Um, and I was so grateful that I had that opportunity to.
Go to school and focus entirely on school. I then, um, finished my undergraduate degree and applied to different graduate schools. Um, the one graduate school that I really wanted to get into was a small school in Ohio. And, uh, I got in, so I, I ended up getting into this lab and I was shocked. Why would you want me?
The lab focus was plants in space, dark. Dr. John Funchess was the advisory does basic research in plant biology, understanding their basic intrinsic responses to the space flight environment and understanding how that impacts life on earth. And that was just so fascinating to me and I, uh, Went to his lab and, and was so excited to start there.
And, uh, about halfway through my PhD, he ended up switching schools. Uh, so it's kind of this trend. It's like, oh, everywhere I go. Things are changing, but I can still adapt and I can still keep going with my passion and keep pursuing my passion. So, um, he left, but I still got to finish my degree there. And, um, while I was working on my PhD, I.
Ended up going to, um, uh, ended up going to DC to do some, uh, chatting with, um, policy makers about the importance of getting these scholarships for students to do research because it was so formative for me, it was so important for me to be able to be in a lab and not have to be working, doing something else while I was going to school, I could focus entirely on what I wanted to do.
And so I, um, I was invited by the American society for gravity. Based research to join them as they talked about the importance of funding for space research at universities. Uh, and so I visited a bunch of different congressional offices and, uh, had a great time with that. In the meantime, I met Julia Massa, who is one of the project scientists here at Kennedy space center.
And she really recommended that I to a. Uh, an internship with the space crop group. And I said, oh, that would be neat. The, um, yeah, so eventually I got out here to Kennedy space center and started doing an internship and just loved it, loved it. The internship ended, finished my PhD and there wasn't any job openings.
I applied to a few positions. They went to people without PhDs. I was like, oh, okay. Whatever. Um, and I was like, okay, well maybe I'll have to find something else to do. Maybe space plants. Isn't in the stars for me. So I started looking around and I just, I noticed there were a few funding opportunities that I could apply for to get back here.
Pursuing those. And I was actually initially writing a proposal to do my, uh, postdoc with Joya Massa because I knew her so well. And I knew her research. And as I was writing the proposal, she looped Ray Wheeler in on it. And. She said, you know, as it was getting further along, she, she pulled me aside and she said, you know, this is really a Ray project.
You're wanting to work with simulated microgravity, which is what he did with his PhD. You're wanting to, uh, look at crops, grown in controlled environment, which, you know, that's really his, his thing. And I was, she was like, yeah, we all work in this area. This project that you're putting to, oh, USDA collaboration.
I wanted to collaborate with the folks at the USDA who had been doing micro greens research since well, they've been publishing on it since like 2009. And so I was like, oh, I I've got to interact with, with these folks and bring them in. Thankfully, there's already an agreement between USD and NASA.
Dealing with this kind of thing. It was very easy to reach out to them and say, would you like to support me in this post-doc application? And they were very excited about it. So getting all of these pieces together and I was like, wait, Bri Wheeler, you want me to ask Ray to be my mentor? This, this is one of the greats, like I.
Don't even feel comfortable asking him, how do I do this? And so I finally got the courage to ask Ray via email, you know, would you mind being my mentor for this? Is this something that you'd like to take on? And he was raised so tight and I shouldn't have been intimidated. He's so nice. Uh, he responded with, of course this is perfect.
Yes, let's do this. I, uh, So I, you know, we, we had him as my mentor officially, and then I also have Ray, so I have Ray. Yay. John is one of the, the other scientists here at, uh, NASA Kennedy. She runs the microgravity simulation support facility, which I use quite a bit. And then, uh, Julio is a, uh, tertiary, uh, advisor for this project as well.
So the three of them are my dream team and. I applied and. Got it somehow. No, I suppose doctoral program is very competitive. Um, kind of a dream come true to be able to be here using the facilities at Kennedy space center and getting to interact with all these amazing scientists and engineers. And it's this interesting collaborative environment where you're not just a bunch of plant scientists working together.
You are plant scientists working with engineers to develop the hardware. For your project and you're working with all of this interdisciplinary, uh, perspective. That's really fun. And. All the interesting players in the room with you when you're physically, or, or virtually when you're having your planning, your projects, you have all these great minds to pull from.
It's it's a wonderful experience to be here. So that's how I got here. Fantastic. So you had already been doing plant production work and micrograins research. And now when it kind of brings you into the, the space program, now you have a, you know, you're, you're used to working with certain parameters based on terrestrial.
No. So you were already telling me microgreens um, so I, I was working with a rabbit ops a yeah. Which is a model organism and I was working with, um, so I started off with plants that were grown well. Okay. So for my PhD, I grew a rabbit off sister Eliana on the space. In 2010, uh, looked at its transcriptomics, looked at its development in the darkness and microgravity true microgravity.
And it was a really cool project. And the stage of development was about seven to 14 days old, which is the same, same point in development as microgreens. And so when there was a call put out for. They wanted someone who could work with microgreens for their, uh, postdoctoral program. They needed someone in the lab who had worked with microgreens.
They put, uh, Matt romaine actually wrote up the call for it. And I had worked with Matt remind and I had grown some microgreens during my internship in 2017. That was my first exposure to microplane. So this in 2017 and it was really interesting to me, but. I didn't expect to be able to write a proposal that was convincing that, uh, to continue working with plants at that stage of development for my postdoc.
So yes, I, I have worked with plants at that stage of development for quite some time for a decade or more, and I just didn't expect it to turn into, oh, this is a crop. It's one of those things where it's like, oh, Wait, I can, I can grow crops at this stage of development. This is my favorite time when they're just hanging out and they're just getting going and they're so nutrient dense.
So, uh, it was so exciting to, to learn that, oh, this is an area of research. That NASA does. Um, and this is something that, that I could then apply my skills to what this could be food. Exactly. And Nick and Nick has spent all these years growing microgreens here in the confines of gravity and, uh, are kind of a earthly environment.
And here you are kind of really taking that. Now that that must have been kind of a, an unusual transition. A lot of people that I've talked with. Um, I mean, a lot of the horticultural, the technology, as well as the methodology of course, is based on very heavily on environmental management. And we have some pretty set environmental parameters, regardless of where here on earth you are.
Well, now all of a sudden you're going up to a completely new environment when I'm working with simulated microgravity, which is what my project is right now. The hope is to get microgreens to the point where they are a crop that can be grown into microgravity. But right now we're at the point where they are.
Um, we've shown that they're nutritious, we've shown that they're of interest, but what we haven't shown is how we can practically grow. In microgravity and how they will develop in microgravity. So I'm growing them on, uh, these things called kind of stats and random positioning machines where the plants, it's a way to simulate microgravity here on earth.
It's not the same for water movement, which is. Kind of, um, you know, a big hurdle that we'll come to eventually, but it is, it is a great way to grow them, to see how they, the physiology is impacted by the microgravity and to see if they still make enough edible biomass to be of interest. Uh, and it looks like they are.
So I do that. And then also I grow them in elevated CO2 because on the space station, when you have this enclosed environment, you have a lot of CO2 in the air. Uh, and if we're growing them in a chamber with, uh, with the cabin air for the space station, then we want to be able to make sure these plants will grow well in elevated CO2.
Microgreens do great. Uh, I have a batch that I just harvested. Growing in, um, elevated, but not super elevated CO2. And they did great. So that that's promising. Then we also have, so you grow them in the simulated microgravity, you grow them in elevated CO2, and then you put that together and you make sure that the plants are still okay.
Another thing that we're doing is we're one thing that's come up time and time again. When people have proposed to grow microgreens that space is harvesting. Is a big concern. You don't want any foreign object degrees getting out. And, uh, we don't necessarily want to make use of a glove box in space because that's for, uh, other research it's usually in use for other research.
And so if we can keep our crop, uh, to, in a way, if we can grow our crop in a way that we can harvest them, uh, Without creating too much mess. Can we go? I think it contained and that's a really good thing. We actually have, uh, the other stock in our group, Lucy poli is, uh, an engineer and she and I have worked together to, uh, along with a couple of others.
Uh, folks here is actually quite a big group of people working on this. Um, we're working on developing hardware that could, uh, have a harvesting method built into it, that we are going to be testing on parabolic flights. This fall. We have a series of parabolic flights where we'll be, uh, that's another way to simulate microgravity.
Uh, you it's called the vomit comment and this vomit comment you, you deal with, um, parabolic flights. You have. Hyper G and then you also have the microgravity and you'll have. A little bit of time in the microgravity that we can use to practice our harvesting techniques. You know, it's like, oh, can we get this done 10 to 15 seconds?
That's great. If we can and make sure that nothing gets away. So we have, um, and we're working toward that right now, which is really exciting. So once we have all of these steps and we've worked out all of these details saying, look, this can work. These things that we're, we're growing our plants and that we can have a contained harvest and we could put those in the veggie hardware that's already on the space station, or we could put them these, these in the advanced plant habitat, that's already on the space station.
And then. Really, you don't have any excuses to not give us this permission to grow this as, as one of the, as one of the optional crops, the astronauts have a whole lot of say in, uh, in the crops as well. We've had astronauts asking for microfiche, so it's like, okay. Let's was there any specific variety that they were asking for or was it just.
They, they want the crunch and the flavor. And so they're looking for things that they don't want cabbage, sorry. They want things that will give them that crunch and flavor. So we're looking at things like wasabi mustard, uh, micro grains and, uh, radish type micro creams. Um, also some herbs basals is one of those ones that that's really appealing.
So, uh, we haven't. Really narrowed down to any one specific thing. But I personally really liked working with things in the family, brassica, Casey, they have a huge variety of flavors and textures, and they have very similar, uh, environmental conditions that they grow in. Um, and then you can. You can kind of make your own little salad with just a handful of fun things, tremendous nutrient density there with those.
And it's Hardy as well, too, for a handful of microgreens you get the same or more nutrients, depending as a whole head of cabbage. So. What would you rather eat
the questions? A lot about, about space production. So just, just so when you were referring to, um, your microgravity experimentation, so that's not outside in outside of the atmosphere, that's actually high level aircraft then basically within our atmosphere, dives and climbs very rapidly to create those positive and negative Jesus.
Is that correct? Correct. So you're able to do a lot of this research still within the confines of our atmosphere, but just mimicking those, uh, conditions that you may see in space. Right. Yes. We have to get the technology. There's something at NASA called the TRL technology readiness level. And we also have the CRL, the crop readiness level.
And so we need to get the hardware that the plants are growing into a high enough TRL to be able to fly on the space station. And we have to get the, the crop itself to a high enough tier. To fly on a space station. So working both sides of that, a lot of people still when trying to wrap their brains around.
Planned production space, obviously there, you know, there's a lot of things that you don't really initially kind of think about. So obviously zero gravity, um, you know, has profound impact on, on plant growth. Um, uh, as you had said, being in an enclosed environment, CO2 levels, moisture levels, um, the, the ability, or rather inability to, to make.
Too much waste and to be very, very mindful of it where we don't, we're not as concerned about it. Can you just kind of unwrap a little bit for people a little bit more about what you're looking at when you're looking at producing a plant in space and, and kind of what some of those differences in, you know, the Earth's atmosphere versus outer space, what kind of impacts that actually has on a plan when it's green?
Yeah. So, um, there's radiation effects as well. Uh, not as much on the space station as there would be on the moon for instance, but there is, um, there are times when the space station goes to the Arctic and Antarctic and at those times they have a lot more exposure to radiation. So radiation is also a concern, uh, Keep in mind that when we're talking about growing plants in space, we're talking about growing them in.
Essentially the same space that the crew is living in. We're not trying to grow them on the porch on KIBO. Although we do look at storage of seeds in the KIBO is one of the modules of the space station. The porch is where you do a lot of material science projects where you're exposing it to the harsh realities of, um, of space flight, where it doesn't have any protection.
It's just out on the porch. Uh, we do have, uh, yang has some studies with the CDC growing out on the porch of KIBO and looking at how the, uh, how the exposure to not just microgravity, but also the vacuum of space and the radiation exposure out there. Um, all of that is, is really interesting to see how seed storage works out.
The book for the most part, like we're not talking about growing them outside, we're talking about growing them in the same space as the crew we're talking. Growing them, uh, with whatever environmental constraints the crew's dealing with. So one of the big issues we have with space flight is water movement.
We have, um, water tends to just form these big balls. And if you were to let's say, ring out a towel in the space environment, you would find that it doesn't drop down the water doesn't drop down. Like you would in a gravity environment instead, it just gets all over your pants, suffocates them. So imagine.
That that would be, if it was the roots being totally suffocated, there they're either getting too little or too much and they have the water and if they get too much of the water, they can't access air and route students respires they do need to be able to access air, uh, They don't need a whole lot of it, but they do need some of it.
So that's why things like ebb and flow hydroponics are really appealing because you have the water coming in and forcing it out. And then you have the air coming through and being able to get to those roots. Uh, yeah. So airflow is also big when it comes to making sure that we don't have an overgrowth of microbes.
Microbes. If the microbes get out of control, like few cerium can become a problem. Uh, It can grow all over the plants if they don't have sufficient airflow, the little parts of the leaves where you have a little bit of mutation or like the dewdrops the form, um, at the tips of the leaves, those don't evaporate off unless you have enough air and they tend to collect really bad on, um, in the microgravity environment.
So you end up with, um, microbes kind of forming colonies in those spots, if you're not careful. So airflow is super important to make sure that. That the plants don't get overwhelmed by the, the microbes that are living there. So to, to, to properly train people, to be much more mindful of their environmental management, we should send them all to space and have them grow plants there.
So coming back here, everything will seem a little easier. Exactly. It's so easy sometimes to, you know, hear, uh, growers all the time. I've made this mistake a million times myself is that you kind of take the, the natural atmosphere for granted and for, uh, environmental control. You know, you're maybe not paying as much attention to air movement or oxygenation of your nutrient solution and roots or CO2 levels and things like that.
And so, so most of those scenarios are just magnified exponentially when we're dealing with, with space plan production. So, um, In, in the course of your research and your current work, uh, any big surprises, anything that you have learned that you really are shocked to have come, come across or you didn't expect?
Well, something that something I didn't expect at all is, um, if you have the environmental conditions just right, if you manage to get everything right, you have this overwhelming growth. The, it just goes so well. Everything's great. Um, the importance of lighting was something that I, um, I really didn't expect.
I knew lighting was important, but I didn't know. I realize how important until we got it into that microgravity environment, the simulated microgravity environment. Um, normally you'll have like one light coming from the top of the chamber and you'll have something rotating. Well, that actually makes the plants a little bit, uh, confused because they have the photo tropism impact.
They start growing toward the light. And then they're also, they're expecting the photo tropism in the grab a tropism on earth. You know, you have, you have gravity pulling down, you have the light up there and when you have light. Constant and things moving all the time. It's very hard on the plants, but if you're able to install a light source, that's moving along with the plants.
Then that's when you have optimal growth, you have plants that are really able to thrive. They're like, okay, light is this way. Gravity is doing whatever. I don't get it, but lights there have my leads go to the light. I'm going to have my roots grow down. I'll make this work out and you end up with plants that are even healthier than the ground controls, which I was really surprised about.
I was like, oh, what am I doing wrong with my ground control lies. Why is it not looking? And then I realized my ground control was as great as any other plant. That I would grow in that environment. It's just, they're doing so much better in the simulator, your gravity, um, that I was like, what did not expect that at all?
That was a big surprise. Wow. That's very interesting. Cause that's, that's been a big problem with a lot of the, um, vertical tower systems. We've, we've talked about this in the podcast. Is that, that, um, antagonism there, the photo tropism grab a tropism, really not, you know, they, they here on earth. They're kind of, there's a.
A certain harmony there. And when you try even here on earth, when you're, when you have systems where you have lighting systems along the side are moving back and forth and you've got the plants trying to grow up. Right. It does it, it creates some, some interesting physiological problems. I didn't realize.
And, and that's a very interesting point that when you coordinate them artificially, that you can actually stimulate really, really productive growth. That's very, very good. Yeah. So obviously you're working on high nutrient density, uh, crops that are w um, what other types of crops, uh, either are you experimenting with, or would you like to kind of start to work into the mix?
So I, um, I also get to hang out with the people who do the. Uh, farming tourists, right. As Jacob he's one of my engineers helping me with the, um, getting the hardware, just right with getting the lighting attached and stuff for the simulated microgravity. So he's, he's my engineering buddy. And because of that, I've been very involved with his pepper plant challenge.
I'm not sure if you're aware of that, but the, the stolen you a little bit about it. Yeah. So we have peppers growing on the space station right now, and they are alive and they're thriving. And here on earth, we have the grow pepper punt challenge where you, uh, Jacob Torres basically sends you seeds from, uh, from one of the farmers, one of the farmers in.
In Espanola, New Mexico has donated a huge number of, uh, Espanola, not as PNL improved. Um, but is it a spaniel is improved as the one on the space station. It is Martinez, Chimayo peppers, uh, donate a lot of these seats. Jacob's been sending them out to classrooms and basically anyone who asks him for them.
Uh, there's thousands of participants now who are growing pepper plants with, with school children or in their own home. Uh, it's been a really fun activity during the pandemic. Uh, it started out, he started the challenge in February of 2020, and he did not expect it to pick up quite as fast as it has. So.
I I've been following along with that. I've grown up plants in my house. I love pepper. I didn't expect to love it so much. It it's not a microgreen you do not want to eat those at that stage of development. That would be bad. Nigerians really don't work out well for Mike. Um, but, um, another plant that I really like is, uh, the popcorn.
I really like boring. I really liked growing the popcorn shoots in the dark and having that really sweet flavor that is such a different flavor. And so the physio physiology of growing them in the dark in space is going to be a real trick because in space we rely on the Photoshop ism to overcome things.
And so if we're going in the dark, we don't have that. So yes, and the popcorn likes the humidity too, when they start off as well. Yes, it was kind of going to be hard to, because then the humidity would just like, it would just go all on top of the plant, like you said, as they're suffocating it. Yes, yes.
With no photo tropism. I wonder if they'll end up looking like curly fries or something. No, that would be so fun to come back with with follow-ups on a lot of these experiments because people have always talked, you know, they ask us a lot, they email him and call and, and, um, ask about space production and kind of the next frontier of food production, obviously, because there's so many unknowns and there's so many different parameters to, to deal with.
So where, where are you? Are you heading with your, your research? You know, what do you see. 3 5, 10, 20 years down the road that that's going to be kind of, you know, coming from all of the work that you and all the great folks in NASA are doing. So, so what do I hope? Okay. In the next five years, I'd like to see micrograms growing on the space station in the next.
Okay. We want to have plants growing or at least I do. I want to have plants growing on a moon base. I know a lot of people don't don't care about that, but I do think it'll be really important before we start going to Mars, um, for us to see what things are doing on the lunar surface and how, how things are growing there.
Um, I, I think Mars is the ultimate goal, right? Everyone wants to grow plants on Mars. At least everyone here does. Everyone wants to grow plants on the way to Mars. Everyone wants to grow plants on Mars. And I looked at that,
but I need to figure it out on the moon first, because that's a lot closer hydroponic Boone farm. I can see it. That would be awesome. That's where the hotel needs to be the hydroponic hotel, you know, let's get plants growing on cruise ships. Let's get them growing in submarines. Let's get them everywhere.
And it really helps with the psychological wellbeing of the people who are in those confined spaces. But then it also gives us data that will be useful for those future missions. Yeah. That, I mean, that's something that I think is one of the most under. Valued portions of the CA you know, we talked with Jen frame mark, who had spent time down at Antarctica.
And I'm, I mean, I can just speak for myself, just going to spend some time in the greenhouse, around the plants. Um, particularly in the winter time or when the, when the weather is, is poor. So when you take that too, The extreme of an extraordinarily harsh climate or a remote place. Oh, I add, see underwater.
I mean, there's so many different things. Um, so many different scenarios where just the exposure, food production aside nutrition and, and, you know, human life support aside, just the psychological benefits, which, I mean, you know, it's something that I've taken for granted being, you know, farming my whole life, but it is something that I have seen just remarkable results with people.
That's amazing. So that's, that's really cool. Well, we're going to definitely want to have you come back, um, periodically to share, uh, some of the things, if you will, some of the, the work that you're doing, I mean, this is, this is something that, you know, is really, I mean is advanced rapidly, but still in some ways, Infancy.
There's so much left to learn and so much, you know, new to kind of discover it. And this is a collaboration thing, you know, like she said, it's all, you know, it's all the, the scientists around there, everybody around her, that's influencing each other. And it's a beautiful thing. And we'd like to have more people on the industry and the production end of the industry involved with, with the research like this, because I think as you had said, a really involved with this.
Yeah. And Jim is, Jim is very involved, right? I talk with a lot of people, um, this fall at the indoor ag con down in Florida. Um, so we'll be, we'll be speaking with a lot of people about that. And certainly these conversations are going to be, um, moving forward, really kind of just, just scratching the surface, but this is a lot of fun and, and we're certainly learning a lot and I'm looking forward to, to, to learning more and being involved in the, in the year.
And are you going to the conference in, uh, in October? Uh, in Orlando, I will, I can get permission to go. Conferences are kind of tricky right now, so I would like to do so close by. Yeah, it is close. Make any last minute questions? Um, no, I mean, I think she's, she's answering out, so, so when is the, the next mission due for microgreens to be up there?
Is, are they up there now growing? We, we don't have a date in mind. Nope. We did have a Clover experiment that we were kind of like the astronauts didn't get to eat them. That's the thing we have to get the results on the food safety back. Um, cause the flight surgeons are just not wanting to approve, approve it.
Even though we're talking about growing crops that are in the same genus, even the same species as some of these others that we've already grown up there, you know, the varieties aren't that far off, um, But when we're talking about this early stage of development, they're like, yeah. Okay. Got it. We do not like we keep applying for funding for it, but hasn't come through yet.
So we're, I'm hoping in the next five years, that'll be an option. The parabolic flight should help a lot because then the arguments about the foreign object debris getting into the cabin when we harvest. You know, be resolved. We'll be able to say, look, it's not that messy. We tried it. Very cool. Well, Christina, thank you very much again.
Uh, this is Christina Johnson, um, plant biologist with NASA, with the NASA space program. Um, thank you again for your time today and your expertise. I know your autoclave has done. And so there's much more work to be done, uh, yet this morning, but, uh, and again, thank you all for spending your time with us today.
We really appreciate it. Hopefully you picked up a lot of great information from Christina and, uh, we look forward to hearing more from you. Please feel free to continue to send questions and comments, um, to Nick and myself. And, uh, we look forward to speaking with you again very soon. So have a great day everyone.
And thanks again.