This fall students at Open Window School have their heads in the clouds, actually far above the clouds. They are working in teams on proposals for microgravity experiments to be conducted by astronauts 250 miles above sea level on the International Space Station (ISS). One of these student-designed experiments will be among 22 selected from the United States and Canada to fly on Mission 9 to the ISS in late spring of 2016 as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).
Students in grades four through eight are engaging in a variety of microgravity learning experiences, including building drop-towers and robotic arms. They will soon break into teams to design research proposals for microgravity experiments in diverse fields such as seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms, cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life. Each experiment must be designed to work within the constraints of a Fluids Mixing Enclosure (FME) research mini-laboratory and pass a NASA Flight Safety Review.
After the student teams have submitted their formal research proposals, a review team of master STEM educators and local researchers will convene in November to select the top three proposals. These proposals will travel to a national committee, which will select the final experiment for a spring 2016 spaceflight. In addition to the microgravity experiment, Open Window School will send two official mission patches designed by kindergarten through eighth grade students to fly aboard the ISS.
The Student Space Flight Experiments Program (ssep.ncesse.org) is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE; ncesse.org) in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC.
This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks, LLC, which in partnership with NASA under the Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the ISS as a National Laboratory.