CAPE CANAVERAL – With shuttle flights few (only two remain) it would be easy to assume that NASA is curtailing education outreach efforts in the form of student-ran experiments that fly up on the orbiters. This assumption is false – NASA, along with other organizations, is sponsoring a number of experiments that have sprung from the minds of young people interested in science and space exploration.
Starting at the middle-school level is the “Seeds-in-Space” experiment which was designed to see how the microgravity environment affects apple seeds. This experiment comes from the students at Crystal Lake Middle School and could prove beneficial when astronauts take long-duration trips beyond low-Earth-orbit.
“Crystal Lake Middle Schools’ students and staff members are grateful that the Florida Space Grant Consortium has provided funding that will allow one of our student experiments to fly aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in low Earth orbit for 14 days,” said the Magnet Programs Coordinator for Crystal Lake Middle School, Lenecia McCrary. “The students entered a school-wide competition that involved proposing and designing real and practical experiments. The chosen experiment deals with investigating the effects of micro-gravity on apple seed germination.”
Moving on to the high school level is the STEM Bar experiment that Mikayla and Shannon Diesch used to win the 2010 Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation Award. The sisters will be at the launch to watch as their STEM Bar experimental food bar flies to the International Space Station (ISS).
Moving to the collegiate level, an experiment comprised of squid embryos is being forwarded by the University of Florida that will research how bacteria affects squid embryo development in space.
“The Squids in Space project is a cohesive effort in which the full range of NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium supported categories work together on an experiment destined to fly on what will be the last flight of space shuttle Endeavour,” said Florida Space Grant Consortium Director Jaydeep Mukherjee. “This team, which is composed of Florida colleges and high school students and led by University of Florida PhD research scientist Jamie Foster, will connect the three tiers of education in an experiment studying the effects of microgravity on squid embryos.”
Having this experiments included on one of the last shuttle missions is viewed by those that have sponsored these efforts as proof of NASA’s commitment to promote education. With cargo space on board the two remaining flights at a premium (NASA is working to ensure that the space station is well stocked before the shuttles are retired) the inclusion of these and other student experiments are expected to provide closure to a long-term relationship that the space agency has had with other, related efforts.Missions » ISS »