Posted by: Tom Ross | November 4, 2014

Up in Smoke

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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When the unmanned Antares rocket exploded last Tuesday on its way to the International Space Station, the news that resonated with many of us was the shock and loss suffered by the students who had experiments on board.



 It all began with the Student Space Experiments Program or SSEP in 2010, a competition that is part of the U.S. National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative. It is designed to provide opportunities for students to have their experiments included on board both the Space Shuttle and later the International Space Station. Students in grades 5-12, community colleges, and 4-year universities are encouraged to submit experiments for consideration.

From the 1,487 student proposals submitted, 18 experiments were chosen for this flight. The level of sophistication of these experiments is remarkable, and they are worth reviewing. For more information about any of them, click here.

  1. McGowan Park Elementary, Kamloops/Thompson, British Columbia, Canada; Grades 6-7: Creating crystals in space.
  2. Urban Promise Academy, Oakland, CA; Grade 6: Composting in Microgravity.
  3. San Marino High School, San Marino, CA; Grade 11: Effects of Microgravity on Early Musca Domestica Growth. (The common housefly.)
  4. The George Washington University and Georgetown University, Washington, DC; Sophomores and Juniors: The Effects of Microgravity on the Development of Chrysanthemum morifolium Seeds.
  5. Iberville Math, Science & Arts Academy-West, Plaquemine, LA; Grade 4: The Effect of Microgravity on Phototropism and Geotropism on the Germination of Soybean Seeds. (How plants react to light and gravity.)
  6. St. Monica Catholic School, Kalamazoo, MI; Grade 8: Microgravity’s Effects on Dry Lake Fairy Shrimp. (Sea monkeys. No, really.)
  7. Wilkinson Middle School, Madison Hts, WI; Grade 7: Coliform Bacteria. (An indicator of the sanitary quality of foods and water.)
  8. St. Peter’s School, Kansas City, Kansas City, MO; Grade 7: Biocides and Bacteria. (Biocides are chemicals that help control harmful organisms.)
  9. Columbia Middle School, Berkeley Heights, NJ; Grade 7: Baby Bloodsuckers in Outer Space. (Just mosquitoes.)
  10. Gregory School, Long Branch, NJ; Grade 5: Hydroponics vs. Microgravity. (Growing plants without soil or gravity.)
  11. Ocean City High School, Ocean City, NJ; Grade 11: Attachment of Escherichia coli K-12 Strain to Lettuce. (A genetic variant or subtype of E. coli. Pass on the salad.)Chiaguy
  12. World Journalism Preparatory School, Flushing, NY; Grade 7: Can Zero Gravity Affect the Germination of Chia Plants?
  13. Colleton County Middle School, Colleton County, SC; Grade 6: Milk in Microgravity. (Differences in milk protein structure and bacteria growth in low gravity.)
  14. Palmetto Scholars Academy, North Charleston, NC; Grades 9 and 11: How Does Spaceflight Affect the Formation of Tin Whiskers on Lead-free Solder? (Spontaneous metal crystal growth caused by stress.)
  15. L&N STEM Academy, Knox County, TN; Grades 5-11: Waste in Space: Exploring the Effect of Microgravity on the Rate of Decomposition of Corn Starch by Rid-X. (Rid-X is used for septic tank maintenance.)
  16. Fayette Academy, Somerville, TN; Grades 9-10: Reishi Mushroom VS. Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. (The mushroom extract inhibits cancer cell growth.)
  17. Williams Middle School, Rockwall County, TX; Grade 8: How Microgravity Effects Yeast Cell Division and How it Relates to Human Cancer Cells. (Yeast cells reproduce asymmetrically in a manner similar to cancer cell division.)
  18. Howsman Elementary and William P. Hobby Middle Schools, San Antonio, TX; Grades 5-6: Crystal Formation. (More about the Texas schools.)

For information about each school and community, go the to SSEP site.

The loss of Mission 6 is immeasurable. But there is good news: Mission 7 is being scheduled and Mission 8 is in preparation. Calling all students: Back to the drawing board, everyone!



  1. Mission 6 will have another opportunity to fly their experiments to the International Space Station thanks to Nanoracks and Cygnus. Thank you for this timely tribute and wish of encouragement.

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