COLORADO SPRINGS — Two 11th graders — Mele Jones and Amelia Anderson — at Thrive Home School Academy were recognized for their ground-breaking research which will help provide nutrients to astronauts — and it all started with some radish seeds.

“I’ve been told, hypothetically, this could be used for helping out in Mars, but we’re beginning with testing on Earth first,” said Jones.

Students at Thrive Home School Academy won a special merit award for research. Credit: Rachel Saurer

Jones and Anderson’s biology teacher first told them about the NASA-funded project called Growing Beyond Earth, and they said they were immediately interested.

“I want to go into science as a career,” Anderson said, who’s focus is biology and anatomy. “So, this was a great opportunity to start with a research project.”

“It was an optional thing, and Amelia and I we’re like, ‘sure, we’ll do it’. And it just kind of went from there,” Jones said.

The academy has been participating in the program for four years now.

Jones adjusts the light on their plant box. Credit: Rachel Saurer

“I’ve had other students participate, but this is the first group of students who have received an award for their research,” said Dara Gardner, biology teacher at the academy.

Gardner said this is the first time students have been successful in growing fully developed plants in a container that mimics what astronauts would use aboard a space center by experimenting with different light and color.

“Because these plants don’t see the sun they offer that same supplements they need to grow,” Anderson said. “And, the blue and red light play huge parts in making sure plants grow — especially radishes.”

Out of 200 schools nationwide, these two juniors placed in the top 10 percent for their Crimson radishes, receiving a special merit award for their efforts.

Mele Jones (right) and Amelia Anderson (left. Credit: Thrive Home School Academy

“I’m very proud of the students,” Gardner said. “They persevered through a lot of different variables that they had to compensate for. It just showed me their tenacity. I think they are totally capable of achieving anything they want.”

“I wasn’t really expecting to win anything and it’s kind of cool that we did,” Jones said. “That our research went so well that it’s being considered valid and exciting by other people.”

Overall, the program has tested over 200 plant types with many different growing strategies, making it possible for astronauts to enjoy a bountiful harvest in space.