On Saturday, November 26, three Texas Middle School students watched their experiment launch on Mission 16 to the International Space Station. Mission 16 also included two patches celebrating TISD’s experiment.
Step 1 Review Board at Texarkana carefully reviewed the 142 projects submitted by 5th graders from 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 reviewed by the SSEP in the Step 2 review. Twenty-two communities from across the United States and the world are participating in this process, and the committee can choose only 22 experiments to fly to the International Space Station.
The SSEP committee in Washington selected 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 Artemia Eggs (Sea Monkeys).” The goal of this experiment was to see if 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 food source for long missions.
TMS science teacher Marcy Kelly reflected on the process, saying, “When the idea was presented to me by the group, I was impressed with the research they found on this proposal and was very curious to see the outcome.”
After a few months of delay, the students videoconferenced with an employee of Nanorack, a company involved in the privatized handling of payloads to space, both on ISS and satellite deployment, to prepare samples for their experiment. They had step-by-step hands-on experience sterilizing the minilabs FME (Fluid Mixing Enclosure). Next, the students carefully placed 5 grams of hybrid brine shrimp eggs in two secure minilabs. Students sent a controlled FME minilab to Nanorack in Houston, TX, which Nanorack later handed over to NASA for boarding. The second FME minilab remains on Earth for future comparison with the results from space.
Kelly added: “[W]e felt that [participation in the SSEP process] can change the way students think 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 review in Step 2 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 freshman 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-member 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 return to Earth to land.
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 a strategic partnership with Nanoracks, LLC. Designed as a model of the U.S. National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education initiative, the program allows students from a participating community to design and propose actual microgravity experiments to launch into low orbit. to fly earth. SSEP is about immersing and involving students and their teachers in every facet of science. This program enables students to experience science and conduct meaningful experiments.
SSEP provides each participating community with an investigative resource: a flight-certified assistant. These guides help students develop a mini-lab for microgravity research and provide guaranteed launch services to transport the mini-lab 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 harvest and analysis by the community’s student flight team.
Pictured (left to right): Lili LeFors, Catie Loomis, Tiffany Bowen, Jacie Ramsey, Rivers Glass, Jaedyn Rios, Mackenzie Wiley, Reese White, Emma Kate Taylor, and Laney Russ