NanoRacks-National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-Antares (NanoRacks-NCESSE-Antares)
Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery
This content was provided by Jeff Goldstein, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
The NanoRacks-National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-Antares (NanoRacks-NCESSE-Antares) investigation is the result of a commercial Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education program overseen by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), called the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).The investigation includes 11 science experiments from across the United States. Student teams design their own experiments using flight approved fluids and materials and are flown in a NanoRacks Module.
Jeff Goldstein, Ph.D., National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, Capitol Heights, MD, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
NanoRacks, LLC, Houston, TX, United States
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Laboratory (NL)
ISS Expedition Duration
September 2012 - March 2013
Previous ISS Missions
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- The 11 student experiments comprising NanoRacks-National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-Antares (NanoRacks-NCESSE-Antares) are the culmination of the fourth flight opportunity associated with the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) an initiative of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC.
- The 11 experiments were selected from 1,125 student team proposals, engaging 3,934 grade 5-12 students in microgravity experiment design. Across the 11 communities that were part of this flight opportunity, 15,120 students were given the opportunity to participate in the program.
- SSEP allows student teams to design an experiment with real constraints imposed by the experimental apparatus, current knowledge, and the environment in which the experiment is conducted.
- Students complete proposals for a flight opportunity, experience a science proposal review process, complete a flight safety review, and attend their own science conference.
- NanoRacks-NCESSE-Antares is also part of the NanoRacks DreamUP! program, which aims to stimulate commercial student participation in low-earth orbit projects.
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), launched by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC, is a extraordinary commercial U.S. national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative that to date has provided more than 100,000 students across the United States—middle and high school students (grades 5-12), and/or undergraduates at 2-year community colleges (grades 13-14)—the ability to design and propose real experiments to fly in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station (ISS).
NanoRacks-National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-Antares (NanoRacks-NCESSE-Antares) includes the following 11 student experiments:
- What Is the Effect of Microgravity on the Formation of Silly Putty and How Do the Characteristics of That Silly Putty Differ from the Silly Putty Made on Earth?
Lincoln Middle School, Grade 8, Santa Monica, California
Silly Putty is a mysterious yet entertaining substance; it is a non-Newtonian dilatant fluid (material in which the viscosity increases with applied stress), and it can be classified as a solid or liquid. This experiment tests if Silly Putty can be made in microgravity, and if so, how do the characteristics of that Silly Putty compare to the characteristics of the Silly Putty made on Earth. The materials used to make the Silly Putty include a sodium borate solution, which is borax mixed with tap water, and Elmer’s glue. When mixed, the product becomes homemade Silly Putty. When the MixStix returns to Earth, the traits of the Silly Putty made on Earth are compared to the traits of the Silly Putty made in microgravity. The traits are molecular structure, viscosity, color, adhesiveness, dissolvability in alcohol, bounce height, and flammability. The hypothesis is that Silly Putty is able to be made in microgravity, but the viscosity and bounce height are different. The results of this experiment are recorded and shared with various scientists. The hope is that making Silly Putty in microgravity helps the world learn more about this unique non-Newtonian fluid.
- Effectiveness of Hydrogen Peroxide on Aspergillus Niger Growth in Microgravity
East Lyme Middle School, Grade 5, East Lyme, Connecticut
The question is "Does hydrogen peroxide eliminate mold in space?" Briefly, the answer is "Yes, it will as it does on earth." This experiment uses four materials: Aspergillus niger (A. niger) which is a common mold found on fruits and vegetables, 10% hydrogen peroxide, Malt Extract broth, and a NanoRacks MixStix. Generally, the way to perform the experiment in space is to expose the 10% hydrogen peroxide solution to the mold spores in the Malt Extract broth. Upon contact, the hydrogen peroxide begins working to break down the mold spores and within minutes, completely eliminates the spores. The ability to eliminate mold quickly is important because mold exposure, even in small amounts, is never good to breathe. It sometimes is the reason for asthma attacks. Also, many people are allergic to A. niger and need a quick way to eliminate it before it causes them complications. So if A. niger gets into the shuttle or space station’s air supply, hydrogen peroxide could be used to quickly remove it like it does on earth. The reasons hydrogen peroxide would work better than other disinfectants is because it doesn’t contain chemicals that pollute the water. Also, hydrogen peroxide decomposes into water and oxygen atoms, which is good because it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that the crewmembers would inhale. Finally, if this experiment works it would be great because astronauts could take hydrogen peroxide into space and it would be a convenient antifungal way to clean the rocket’s surfaces.
- Shmooing Around in Space
Mark T. Skinner West Elementary School, Grade 6, Chicago, Illinois
Can yeast shmoo in space? Yeast normally reproduces through asexual reproduction, a process which has its disadvantages. Some yeast go through sexual reproduction, where two types of yeast cells share genetic information. The yeast cell sends out mating projections called shmoos. The chemical responsible for this act is a hormone called a pheromone. The yeast cells, an "A" cell and an "Alpha" cell grow towards each other until they fuse into one. There they share genetic information. This experiment reveals if yeast can do this in space. The hypothesis is that the yeast is able to send pheromones and reproduce sexually in space. This experiment is conducted on both the ground and on the ISS. On the ISS, a sample of yeast not exposed to pheromones and a sample exposed to pheromones are tested. Similar samples on earth are compared for the results. If the yeast has produced shmoos, it means that they can send pheromones in space, and microgravity does not affect this. If they have not produced shmoos, it may mean that yeast cannot produce pheromones in space. This shows that microgravity affects this process. This experiment is fundamental research in the world of single-celled organisms. Looking at something basic, like yeast, helps us to understand something more complicated, like human cells. Studying the effects of microgravity on yeast, uncovers how microgravity affects human cells.
- Charlotte Goes to Space
Unity Jr. High School, Grade 7, Cicero, Illinois
The experiment’s purpose is to know if a spider egg can hatch and survive in a microgravity environment and if microgravity affects the spider’s characteristics. The Jumping Spider is chosen because they are very small (1mm-20mm) and will fit in the MixStix. The jumping spider is also used because the spider can already live in high elevation, the spider has been found in elevations as high as Mt. Everest. It is hypothesized that the Jumping Spider is able to hatch and survive in the microgravity environment, just as it would here on Earth. This experiment helps prove that animals can hatch in microgravity. Perhaps someday NASA may want to send eggs into space and this research will help them.
- Will Microgravity Have a Significant Affect on Packed Synthetic HBOCs?
Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, Grade 11, Fitchburg, Massachusetts
This project proposal revolves around one central concept: How does microgravity affect Synthetic Hemoglobin Based Oxygen Carriers (HBOCs)? Due to their extreme medical potential, Synthetic HBOCs are favored in emergency medical conditions where it is difficult to get donated human blood. On the International Space Station, as well as any other spacecraft, it is next to impossible to keep a supply of donated blood on hand to use in emergency situations. Synthetic HBOCs, on the other hand, last an extremely long time, have the ability to adapt to any person in need and can be stored without the complex conditions required for human blood. The only problem is: nobody knows how these cellular components react when taken up into space. This experiment, establishes just how Synthetic HBOCs react among each other when stored in microgravity. Will they stick together and become unviable? Will allowing them to float free affect their ability to transport oxygen throughout body tissues? Will their protein membranes disintegrate? This experiment addresses all of these issues. To obtain these answers, two samples of Synthetic HBOCs are placed in identical containers, immersed in a preservative, under controlled conditions. One sample is sent into space, the other remains here on Earth. By analyzing both of these samples simultaneously after the flight, all of the afore-mentioned issues and more are addressed.
- The Effects of Uric Acid on Bone Deterioration Within a Microgravity Environment Compared with That on Earth
Pennsauken High School, Grade 9 and 11, Pennsauken, New Jersey
The purpose of this experiment is to determine whether microgravity affects the rate of bone decay. In the experiment, fragments of chicken bones are placed into a concentrated uric acid solution. An abnormal level of uric acid in the body causes Gout (hyperuricemia), a kind of arthritis, which causes joint inflammation. The bone fragments are going to be soaked in uric acid, in the MixStix on Earth and in space. When the experiment is brought back on Earth the weight of the bone fragments from the experiment on Earth and in space are measured and compared to the initial weight.
- Mold Reproduction Rate in MicrogravityJohnson Street Global Studies, Grade 6-8, Guilford County, North Carolina
This project discovers if the rate of mold reproduction is affected when exposed to a micro-gravitational environment. The hypothesis is that the rate of mold reproduction decreases since the spores aren’t accustomed to micro-gravity and therefore they do not grow as well. The potato-dextrose agar could also affect the rate of reproduction since mold is more accustomed to bread growth than agar. Also, since the agar hasn’t been contaminated previously, it could also vary the results. If the mold doesn’t reproduce to a level to describe it as “thriving”, this could change the way that you think about food “going bad” (after experimenting with other substrates) in space. The materials that would be needed to conduct this experiment are the following: Type 3 MixStix, Rhizopus stolonifer spores, and potato-dextrose agar. Results from the micro-gravitational environment are compared to data collected on Earth.
- One Small Step for Bacteria, One Giant Leap for Mankind
Pershing Middle School, Grade 8, Houston, Texas
This experiment determines how microgravity affects antibiotic susceptibility/resistance of bacteria. Bacillus thuringiensis (or Bt) is used for the bacteria, since it is non-pathogenic to humans and easily accessible, not to mention it is a close relative of the newsworthy human pathogen, Bacillus anthracis. Everybody has feared this deadly bug, in the white powder form for several years. Erythromycin acts as the antibiotic, because most Bt strains are susceptible to it. The bacteria grows for several days in microgravity and then is exposed to the antibiotic while still in microgravity conditions. Upon arrival to Earth the amount of surviving bacteria is calculated and compared to the data gathered from an identical experimental specimen grown on Earth. Comparing these results determines if microgravity had an effect on the antibiotic susceptibility/resistance of these bacteria. Since, previous research shows that the human immune system weakens in space, and that most bacteria are prone to reproduce more rapidly in space, it is vital to understand how microgravity affects bacterial susceptibility/resistance for the health of our crewmembers. This experiment is limited, but it could be one small step to the advancement of knowledge in space medicine. If the results show that the antibiotic reacted differently in microgravity, further studies may lead to understanding the mechanism of that change. Maybe this could lead to a better understanding of how antibiotics work and what causes bacterial resistance. This small step could lead to a giant leap in medicine for mankind.
- The Effect of Microgravity on the Growth and pH of Lactobacilli Acidophilus
Presidio High School, Grade 12, Presidio, Texas
Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) bacterium resides in the human intestines aiding in providing a healthy intestinal tract. L. acidophilus has been used as a healing agent for some gastrointestinal disorders. These microorganisms are also used as probiotics and are commonly found in fermented dairy and other food products. Microgravity has been shown to affect the bone-mineral density causing loss of calcium from bones due to absence of earth’s gravity. This disrupts the process of bone maintenance in its major function of supporting body weight. This is called disuse osteoporosis. Another effect of microgravity is the disuse muscle atrophy which occurs when crewmembers lack the natural resistance of gravity which keeps the muscles in good shape and causes muscle loss. This experiment is designed to test how microgravity affects the growth of L. acidophilus bacteria in order to determine if crewmembers should be given supplemental probiotics to help maintain normal digestion and prevent bone loss. Without proper digestion the muscular and skeletal systems will not function efficiently.
- The Rate of Oxidation in a Microgravity Environment
Lebanon High School, Grades 10-11, Russell County, Virginia
In deciding the experiment to conduct, the guideline chosen is that the research has to be relevant as a daily occurrence on earth while still having factors that would make it important to space and space travel. Using this guideline, the idea of oxidation is chosen. The metals chosen to oxidize are iron and copper. Iron is chosen because of its use in many buildings and tools; if something made of metal was sent into space, it would most likely be made of an iron alloy. In contrast, copper is chosen because of its properties as a thermal and electrical conductor, not to mention the fact that it’s completely recyclable, which is very useful when there is a scarcity of resources, like in space. Water is used as the oxidizer. Since the corrosion of metals through oxidation happens because the hydrogen atoms in water bond with other elements which at times results in acids that corrode the metal. In a microgravity environment, the elements still combine, however the water is in contact with the metals less frequently. In addition, water’s adhesion property is not applicable, so once in contact with the metal, water would not cling to it. This would undoubtedly lower the rate of oxidation. In conclusion, the iron, copper, and water in space will have a slower oxidation rate.
- Crystal Growth with Impurities in Microgravity
Highland Terrace Elementary School, Grade 6, Shoreline, Washington
"When the MixStix is broken and an alum seed crystal is mixed together with a saturated alum solution and a copper sulfate solution, will the crystal pick up copper as an impurity as it grows?" An alum seed crystal is immersed into a saturated alum solution and a copper sulfate solution is added in order to introduce an impurity. It has been demonstrated that crystals grown in microgravity are purer. The hypothesis is that a purer alum crystal will grow, and that the copper impurity will not be incorporated into the crystal structure. This is important because this might assist science and technology. For example, it would be of use when fabricating single crystals with less impurity for use as semi-and superconductors. We observe whether or not the seed crystal has picked up the copper impurity when the crystal is returned to from the Space Station. Observations, weight, and measurement of the growth of the crystals formed on the ground and in microgravity are made. If the blue color cannot be directly seen with the naked eye, indicating copper impurities in the crystal, then a binocular microscope is used. Further analysis is done with a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) with an Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS). The SEM-EDS produces an elemental analysis of the crystal composition including any contaminates such as copper, and produces the results based on an elemental spectrum. Since it has been documented that crystals grown in microgravity are purer than those of the same composition grown on Earth, it is expected that the alum crystals grown in space should not have the copper impurity.
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SSEP is designed to be a keystone initiative for U.S. National STEM education, and to help inspire America's next generation of scientists and engineers. Inspiring the next generation is key to ensuring the future of space flight.
SSEP is about a commitment to student ownership in exploration, to science as journey, and to the joys of learning. For school districts, even individual schools, it provides an opportunity to implement a systemic, high caliber, and historic STEM education program tailored to community need. SSEP is about immersing and engaging students and their teachers in real science, on the high frontier, so that students are given the chance to be scientists, and experience science firsthand.
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The experiment is activated by flexing the liquid mixing containers. The mini-labs are returned to the student teams. Each team unseals their mini-lab, harvests the samples and compares to their ground truth experiments, analyzes results, and presents results at the SSEP National Conference at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
A crewmember removes the Velcro tabs to open the Module-9 lid. A MixStix is removed and the crewmember flexes it to break the internal reservoir and release the liquids (flex down the entire length of tube). The crewmember then shakes the MixStix to mix the liquids thoroughly. Repeat for all 14 MixStix. Crewmember notes the time of MixStix activation and replaces the tubes back in Module-9. The lid is replaced and secured with the Velcro tabs.
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Students from Lincoln Middle School, Santa Monica, CA, work on their microgravity experiments. Image Courtesy of SSEP.
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East Lyme Middle School, East Lyme, CT, 5th graders are feeling confident after facing the SSEP Step 1 Review Board at East Lyme's Race to Space Night. Image Courtesy of SSEP.
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Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, Fitchburg, MA, Grade 11 students run titrations as they conduct preliminary tests on the experiment. Image Courtesy of SSEP.
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Sixth-graders at Johnson Street Global Studies in High Point, NC, prepare a swab with solution for their team’s experiment studying the growth of mold in microgravity. Image Courtesy of SSEP.
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Pershing Middle School, Houston, TX, students work on their project, One Small Step for Bacteria, One Giant Leap for Mankind. Image Courtesy of SSEP.
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Student team members from Lebanon High School, Russell County, VA, explains the team's experiment on the rate of oxidation of copper and iron in a microgravity environment during a local media day. Image Courtesy of SSEP.
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Students from Einstein Middle School, Shoreline, WA, work collaboratively on their proposals. Image Courtesy of SSEP.
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