Cazenovia High School’s CubeSat for the Perlan2 is proudly sponsored by Harwell Dosimeters, Oxfordshire, England.
This experiment would be studying the effects of radiation of two different organisms, Ocimum basilicum (common basil) and Physarum polycephalum (slime mold). There is little information regarding how plants and protists grow in an non-ozone protected environment. One study suggested that basil plant growth was positively influenced by short term exposure to to UV-B rays (2013). However, using living plants would not be recommended for this experiment because of the extreme low temperatures expected in the Perlan II. Therefore, seeds will be used. Protists are one of the most versatile organisms on this planet. For years, slime molds were classified as fungi but recently were reclassified to be protists based on their characteristics. The slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) has two distinct life phases: sclerotial and plasmodial. The plasmodial stage is when the organism is one cell with lots of nuclei and can move (very slowly). The protist enters the sclerotial stage when growing conditions are poor and can remain that way for many years. In the sclerotial stage, the plasmodium is split up into cell like regions, each containing anywhere from 0-4 nuclei. The sclerotial stage of the Physarum is the stage that would be used to test the effects of mesospheric and radiation exposure.
The biological team has spent some time researching different plants to select seeds that they feel have a fighting chance in the harsh environments of the mesosphere. Originally they had thought of using basil but have decided to go down other avenues. Currently, they are researching and planting kale, sweet peas and primrose. They will begin growing these immediately to start collecting data to be compared to the seeds that come back from the mesosphere and to become acquainted with growing and data collection.