On Saturday, November 26, three Texas Middle School students saw their experiment launched on Mission 16 to the International Space Station. Mission 16 also included two patches celebrating TISD’s experiment.
Step 1 Review Board in Texarkana carefully reviewed the 142 projects submitted by 5th graders at Morriss Elementary and 6th – 8th-grade pre-AP students from TMS. The final three teams sent experiments to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, last year to be judged by the SSEP in the Step 2 review. Twenty-two communities from across the United States and the World participate in this process, and the committee can only 22 experiments choose to fly to the International Space Station.
The SSEP Committee in Washington chose the Team Chicken Strips design proposal submitted by current 7th graders Tiffany Bowen, Rivers Glass, and Jaedyn Rios. Their proposal was “The Effects of Space Travel and Microgravity on Hybrid Brine Shrimp Eggs (Sea Monkeys).” The purpose of this experiment was to see whether Sea Monkey eggs can withstand the conditions of space travel and microgravity on the ISS to see if brine shrimp will benefit future missions as a possible long-mission food source.
TMS science teacher Marcy Kelly reflected on the process and said, “When the idea was brought to me by the group, I was impressed on the research they had found on this proposal and very eager to see the outcome.”
After a few months of delays, the students had a video conference with a Nanorack staff member, a company that works in privatized handling of payloads to space, both on ISS and with satellite deployment, to prepare samples for their experiment. They had step-by-step, hands-on experience sterilizing the FME (Fluid Mixing Enclosure) mini labs. Students then carefully placed 5 grams of hybrid brine shrimp eggs into two secured mini labs. Students sent one controlled FME mini-lab to Nanorack in Houston, TX, which Nanorack later handed off to NASA for boarding. The second FME mini-lab remains on earth for future comparison with the results from space.
Kelly added, “[W]e felt that [participation in the SSEP process] could change the way students thought about science and also challenge them to think like real scientists with actual research and data.”
The other two teams that had experiments sent for Step 2 review included:
current 8th graders Laney Russ, Emma Kate Taylor, Reese White, and Mackenzie Wiley. Their proposal was titled “What are the Effects of Microgravity on the Growth of a Fragia X Anannassa?”
current freshmen Lili LeFors, Catie Loomis, and Maya Olson. They presented a proposal on “The Effects of Microgravity on the Crystallization of Perovskite Solar Cells.”
A 10-person TISD and Texarkana community Mission Patch committee selected two student patches, which were also sent into space on Mission 16. The Mission 16 astronauts will sign the patches before they are returned to the student winners when they land back on earth.
Texas High junior Astrid Cabrera was the secondary winner in the Mission 16 Patch Contest. The elementary winner was Spring Lake Park 2nd grader Jacie Ramsey.
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) was launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in strategic partnership with Nanoracks, LLC. Designed as a model U.S. National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education initiative, the program gives students across a participating community the ability to design and propose actual microgravity experiments to fly in low Earth orbit. SSEP is about immersing and engaging students and their teachers in every facet of science. This program allows students to experience science and conduct meaningful experiments.
SSEP provides each participating community with a research asset – a flight-certified assistant. These guides help students develop a microgravity research mini-laboratory and provide guaranteed launch services to transport the mini-laboratory to the International Space Station, where the astronauts operate it. After a typical 4 to 6-week stay in orbit, the experiment will be returned to Earth for harvesting and analysis by the community’s student flight team.
Pictured (l to r): Lili LeFors, Catie Loomis, Tiffany Bowen, Jacie Ramsey, Rivers Glass, Jaedyn Rios, Mackenzie Wiley, Reese White, Emma Kate Taylor, and Laney Russ