Rocket carrying Buffalo spuds to space


Shaniylah Welch, left, and Toriana Cornwell examine potatoes being grown in a classroom at Hamlin Park. Their science experiment was sent to the International Space Station. Photo: Douglas Levere

Published March 16, 2017

The Falcon 9 rocket that blasted into space Sunday contains 5,500 pounds of cargo, including potatoes that eventually will make their home at UB.

The rocket, from Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies (better known by its abbreviated moniker: SpaceX), lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is expected to reach the International Space Station today.

Among its cargo are 20 potatoes, a science experiment conceived by three Buffalo Public Schools students. The spuds are expected to germinate while in orbit and then return to Earth after six weeks, upon which they will be planted at UB’s Dorsheimer greenhouse to test how space-born tubers fare on Earth.

UB plant biologists James O. Berry and Mary Bisson — both professors of biological sciences — are serving as advisers to the students.

The project is part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, which is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with Nanoracks LLC. This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a national laboratory.

For more background on the experiment, read this UBNow story.