As proud daughter's go, Photomyne user Lisa Dumas could not have been more excited to introduce us to her father. She shared his story and how he worked on one of the coolest programs possible - growing plants in space for NASA!
While my dad, Harold Koontz, was an associate professor of biology at the University of Connecticut, he got the opportunity of a lifetime. In 1986, he was selected as one of twelve for a nationwide fellowship, but not with any old organization. He was flown to Cape Canaveral, Florida for 10 weeks to work on a crazy idea with NASA to - get this - research growing plants in space, kind of like in 'The Martian'.
Dad’s focus was on growing plants in a negative gravity environment which could then provide astronauts with food and oxygen on spaceships. He specialized in hydroponics research at UCONN so naturally, he and his colleagues worked together to come up with a method of growing plants in a liquid solution of water and nutrients. By the end of his time on the project in the summer of 1987, Dad and his team had created a vacuum-like system to keep nutrients by the roots, no easy task in a gravity-less ship.
My dad never said much to us about his work or his time there at NASA, but he did send us some newspaper articles about it. So, I know he was honored and proud to contribute to the research studies. He took us to see Cape Canaveral a few years after he had worked there. I remember him showing us the building where he had conducted the experiments. It was pretty surreal for me. Hopefully, his work made a difference and brought us closer to this reality.
I am proud to call him my dad and not only for his accomplishments in science, but for being a loving, and caring human being. He had a long and wonderful life full of many adventures. I miss him, but am sure happy that he was my dad.
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