Plant the Moon Challenge Regional Ceremony hosted at NASA Kennedy Space Center

Posted July 12, 2023 by Miranda Marshall

This past June, aerospace professionals, scientists, and a former astronaut gathered at Kennedy Space Center to celebrate the top student winners of the Plant the Moon Challenge NASA Space Grant Regional Expansion Project. The Spring 2023 Season of the Challenge kicked off a partnership between the Institute of Competition Sciences and six Space Grant Consortia on a NASA-funded Regional Expansion Project led by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Through this expansion project, students from Florida, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia competed for regional Best in Show Awards and the top placement in the Regional Expansion Project. Winners in the middle and high school divisions were awarded a trip to NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC)  in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

The winning middle school team came from Manassas Park Middle School in Virginia and the winning high school team from the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology in  South Carolina. During the program both student teams presented their research projects, recapping methods, successes, and lessons learned as they explored how their crops best in Lunar regolith simulant. Manassas Park Middle School won for their project, “Pea Shooting to the Moon: An analysis of how different mixtures of regolith, soil, and compost effect pea shoot growth over an 8-week grow period,” and the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology team won for their research titled, “Pots and Pillows: Growing Potatoes In Lunar Regolith Soil.”

Students were joined by special guest speakers including Dr. Mary Sandy, Director of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium; Hortense Blackwell Diggs, Director for the Center of Engagement and Business Integration Services at KSC; Trent Smith, Research Advisor for Space Plant Biology and Space Crop Production at KSC; Anna Metke, Director of Operations at Exolith Lab; Amanda White, Operations Manager for the Institute of Competition Sciences, and former NASA Astronaut Kathy Thornton. Speakers extended congratulatory remarks, shared their own life experiences and challenges, and expressed the importance of the research conducted by the students to the industry as a whole. 

To wrap up the event, teams were awarded certificates and plaques for their successful participation in the Plant the Moon Challenge Regional Expansion Project, and the ceremony concluded with tours of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Jaydeep Mukherjee, Director of the Florida Space Grant Consortium, offered closing remarks and a final congratulations to student participants. Teams spent the bus ride back to the airport recounting their favorite parts of the day and looking ahead to newly discovered opportunities to continue connecting with NASA and the future of space food. 

Registration for the fall 2023 season of The Plant the Moon Challenge is currently open, and the NASA Space Grant Regional Expansion Project will be back in spring 2024 inviting top teams to the Regional Experience at Kennedy Space Center. If you want to participate in either the fall or spring season of the Plant the Moon Challenge stay updated by subscribing to the PTMC Newsletter!