Thursday, July 28, 2011

Growing Food in Space and Ukraine

We were invited to joing the Mayor of the City of Zhutomyr, Ukraine for a tour of the Korolov Space Museum. Sergey Korolov was the mastermind behing all of the Soviet Union's space efforts. In fact, it is his designed Progress Transport vehicle which is the only way astronauts can get to the Internation Space Station since the Shuttle has been retired.
The museum is well done and represents many of the Russian and USSR achievements in space over the years. Korolov was born in Zhutomyr and they made a museum of the house where he was born and across the street is the actual space museum. I was quite surprised when one of the poster exhibits was an experiment showing the growth of plants in space, first on the MIR space station and then on the ISS. Then I recognized the plant growth chambers in the photos taken on the ISS. They were the modules designed and built at the Space Dynamics Laboratory. They were then transported to Moscow for testing and then launched on the Progress to the ISS. Russian astronauts conducted all the experiments and ate the food that was produced.
When I told the Mayor that I worked at SDL, who made the modules and cooperated with the Russians, he became very excited. He aske if I would come back for an interview and write up our history of the program so that the Museum can do a story and display on our cooperative efforts (he was not aware than this was a cooperative effort with the U.S.) They want to grow the international cooperation part of the Museum, and this was a perfect fit. We are looking foward to the follow up interview and story.
Then we had a chance to tour the Nation's largest producer of quail eggs and quail meat in Eastern Europe, maybe even the world. They have about 40,000 quail laying 30,000 eggs a day. They provide quail eggs for all of Ukraine.
We were fortunate to arrive just as about 20,000 quail chicks were hatching. They only eigh about 9 grams when hatched, and are an eating machine. For the first few days while they tripple their weight and size, they like loud noizes. We could whistle and they would come running to you. I guess that is instinct for where the food is. It is amazing how fast they grow and then begine to lay eggs. This photo is of thousands of two day old chicks. They reminded me of a floor covered with cockroaches moving for hiding when the light is turned on. It was fascinating and extremely educational. They gave us 100 fresh eggs that we will boil and put in a salad. They do taste just like chicken eggs, but the shells are several shades of brown kind of like a paint horse.
Having fun in Ukraine.

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