The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA), in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), awarded space-exposed seeds to junior high school students and educators during the Space Seeds Turnover Ceremony on 08 March 2024 at the Joy~Nostalg Hotel & Suites Manila in Pasig City. 

This marks the culmination of PhilSA’s Herb in Space comic strip contest, where Filipino students in the National Capital Region (NCR) showcased their creative and science skills by illustrating the journey of coriander seeds from Earth to space and back.  

The space-exposed coriander seeds from JAXA were awarded to the winning schools of the contest: Victorino Mapa High School, Pasig Catholic College, Manila Science High School, St. Louis College of Valenzuela, Carlos Albert High School, Lagro High School, Cayetano Arellano High School, Montessori Academy of Valenzuela, Batasan Hills National High School, and Dr. Josefa Jara Martinez High School. Three (3) higher education institutions–University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, University of Santo Tomas (UST), and De La Salle University (DLSU)–also received the said seeds for research purposes.  

PhilSA spearheaded the Philippine participation in the Asian Herb in Space (AHiS) activity.  Through this, JAXA provided the space-exposed seeds for use in education, research, and development activities which could help in further increasing public awareness of the importance of space science and technology applications in the country. Acquired from Mission-2 of the Kibo-Asian Beneficial Collaboration (Kibo-ABC) AHiS Program, the coriander seeds have been exposed to outer space conditions inside the Kibo Module of the International Space Station (ISS). 

The experiments that will be performed on the space seeds are important for the long-term space missions and studies that will contribute to the sustainability of outer space activities, PhilSA Director General Joel Joseph S. Marciano, Jr. explained. 

“This [Kibo-ABC] is a very important program because it allows countries like the Philippines to access the space environment through the International Space Station. Without programs like Kibo-ABC, access to space environment might still be a dream for many countries, including the Philippines,” DG Marciano said. 

PhilSA Director General Marciano emphasized that planting seeds is important because it supports the space value chain, which is about directing the country’s space activities to create socio-economic benefit and value for society.

Kibo Utilization Center Director Dr. Masaki Shirakawa underscored how collaboration in the Asia-Pacific region is important for JAXA, which has been undertaking various collaboration activities. Director Shirakawa also highlighted two landmark events where the Philippines collaborated with JAXA on the use of Kibo for research: (1) Diwata-1 being deployed to orbit from Kibo in 2016 and (2) selection of proposals submitted by Philippine students for the Asian Try Zero-G program, which were then chosen to be performed in the ISS. The AHiS space seeds research activity is now the latest activity with JAXA on the Kibo module.

JAXA Kibo Utilization Center Director Shirakawa says he looks forward to the continuation of collaborations using the ISS and Kibo in the future.

The schools that received the space-exposed seeds are expected to germinate these in a controlled and treatment group. Data will then be collected and analyzed for presentation to PhilSA. 

Envisioned to potentially develop space food and space agriculture for the advancement of local agricultural industry and future human space habitation, this activity highlights JAXA’s role in providing the youth the opportunity to participate in space-related research and experiments.  

Assistant Regional Director Cristito Eco, on behalf of DepEd-NCR Regional Director Jocelyn Andaya, said that the event’s objectives of spreading awareness on the value of space exploration, contributing to sustainable development in space-related activities, and inspiring national interest in space science resonate with the DepEd-NCR’s mission of providing quality education for their students to become lifelong learners and creative thinkers.   

About the AHiS: 

Through the AHiS, an activity of the Kibo-ABC under the Space Frontier Work Group of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF), seeds from various Asia-Pacific countries and regions were sent to the Kibo module of the International Space Station (ISS). These seeds were exposed to outer space conditions for seven (7) months then taken back to Earth.