During his long-term expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Bob Thirsk will find himself engaging in the unusual task of bending willow tree stems into loops. No, he is not taking up basket-weaving as a hobby; rather, he will be conducting a study known as APEX-Cambium (Advanced Plant EXperiments on Orbit). Funded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), APEX-Cambium will help determine the role gravity plays in trees forming different kinds of wood. Read more at the Canadian Space Agency.
This experiment will be launched on board Atlantis during STS-129 along with a variety of other major spare parts to sustain the space station after the space shuttle's retire. Among these parts is a spare end-effector (hand) for the Canadarm-2 and spare fuse boxes that the Canadian robot Dextre will use to replace burned out fuses. For more on the launch and mission of Atlantis, read more at Spaceflight Now.