Tomato Seeds in Students’ Hands, After 18 Months in Space

The 400,000 tomato seeds that were brought back to Earth aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on August 9 were in the spotlight, when Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Robert Thirsk, accompanied by 550 students, kicked off the fifth and final year of the Tomatosphere project.

The 2005-2006 season presents a unique opportunity for students across Canada. They will work with seeds that have spent 18 months in the hostile environment of space.
Continue reading

Meteorites in Antarctica

Dr. Gordon Osinski, scientist at the Canadian Space Agency’s Planetary Exploration and Space Astronomy division, has been invited to spend two months searching for meteorites in the Transantarctic Mountains as part of the National Science Foundation and NASA-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program.

Antarctica is the best place on Earth to find meteorites-fragments of rock from space that have fallen to Earth after passing through our atmosphere. Some meteorites consist of rock from other planets, like Mars, and some date back to the formation of the Solar System 4.55 billion years ago. These meteorites are special to a geologist because no rocks of this age are left on Earth.

The only samples of rock from Mars we currently have on Earth are from meteorite finds. In fact, Dr. Osinski was with the team that found a new Martian meteorite in the Miller Range of the Transantarctic Mountains in 2003 and is honoured to be invited to return to help look for more.

Another aspect of Dr. Osinski’s research will be to determine how meteorites and other rock types are affected by the extremely cold and dry Antarctic climate. By studying how rocks weather in this environment on Earth, he hopes to better understand images and data gathered during missions to Mars. As one of two foreign participants in a team of about 10 scientists, he draws upon experience gained in seven field expeditions to the Canadian High Arctic.

For more information, please visit

ISS Commander Trying for Record

ISS Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, has proven to be one of the more active Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) operators among ham radio operators who have occupied the space station.

Early in his ISS duty tour, McArthur got on the air from NA1SS for Scouting’s Jamboree On The Air (JOTA) event in October, but he’s also been available during his off hours to make some quick, casual QSOs on 2 meters as well. In fact, McArthur’s having so much fun operating from space that he’s hoping to complete Worked All Continents (WAC), Worked All States (WAS) and maybe even DXCC from space.

“Bill McArthur continues to be active on voice and now has a couple of personal goals he is trying to achieve,” says ARISS Ham Radio Project Engineer Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO. “He is trying to talk to someone in every state in the United States. According to his log, he has managed to work 37 states so far.” In addition, Ransom says, McArthur wants to work as many countries as he can.
Continue reading


Ask anyone what an airplane looks like and most will tell you a tube with wings. NASA researchers are trying to expand that image. They’re testing a design for a flying wing, called a blended wing body.

Technicians have installed a five-percent scale model of a blended wing body in the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. During tests in the tunnel’s huge 30X60 foot test section, pilots “flew” the 12-foot wingspan, 80-pound model. It stayed aloft in the tunnel’s wind stream constrained only by a tether cable. The flying wing is the biggest model ever free flight tested in the Full Scale Tunnel.

“We want to understand the edge of the envelope flight characteristics of the blended wing body,” said Dan Vicroy, blended wing body flight dynamics principal investigator. “We’re comfortable with the flight characteristics of conventional tube with wings airplanes, but we don’t have much experience with flying wings.”
Continue reading



The Tomatosphere educational project will reach its zenith during the 2005-2006 school year. For the final year of this educational program, tomato seeds that have spent 18 months in orbit will be used in class science projects across Canada. The cargo of more than 400,000 tomato seeds travelled back to Earth on August 9 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. This was the longest period of exposure for tomato seeds to the hostile environment of space since Tomatosphere began.

Tomatosphere was undertaken with several partners and launched in 2000. Since then, more than 387,000 young Canadians have participated in research needed to make a manned mission to Mars possible.

For more information on the project, please visit: