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One Last Student Endeavour
A student observes the results of an experiment while her teacher looks on

As her biology teacher watches, a high school student from Ballston Spa, N.Y., demonstrates her proposed experiment. Image Credit: SSEP

Even before its first flight, students were involved with space shuttle Endeavour.

Back in 1988, NASA held a student contest to name the next orbiter. More than 6,000 U.S. schools said what they thought orbiter OV-105 should be named and why.

Now, Endeavour is preparing for its final flight, and students still are involved.

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, in partnership with NanoRacks LLC, sponsored the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, or SSEP, through which 16 communities will see student-designed experiments fly on Endeavour's final mission. The program is blazing a new trail in commercial space. It is the first pre-college science, technology, engineering and mathematics education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an orbital commercial space venture. It is made possible through a Space Act Agreement between NanoRacks and NASA as part of the use of the International Space Station as a national laboratory.

Through the project, 20,000 students in grades five through 12 had the opportunity to come up with ideas for experiments that could be flown in a mini-laboratory stowed in a mid-deck locker on Endeavour for the STS-134 shuttle mission. The same hardware is carrying experiments from professional government, academic and industry researchers.

Student teams developed their experiments and submitted 447 proposals through a series of reviews. One experiment from each community was chosen. Each of the 16 experiments then successfully completed the necessary rigorous checks to be cleared to fly in space.

Of the students who participated in the program, Jeff Goldstein, the SSEP national program director, said, "They rose to the challenge, gently slipped on the shoes of real scientists, rolled up their sleeves and did remarkable things. They are all winners. They each have the ability to chart a course to their future, and we hope that this program has given them real insight into the worlds of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And hopefully some of (them) may become America's next generation of scientists and engineers at a time when this nation needs to step to the plate if we are to compete in the 21st-century high tech marketplace."

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and NanoRacks are now planning the details of a post-shuttle Student Spaceflight Experiments Program initiative using the unique hardware of the International Space Station U.S. national laboratory. Participation will be open to the station’s partner nations through the center's new Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education.

"The SSEP is a model program for engaging students in the NASA mission in a hands-on manner," says Mark Severance, NASA education projects manager for the International Space Station national laboratory. "The real-world experience these student scientists will gain by developing actual flight experiments will be invaluable to their science and technology educational development. We look forward to working with [the center] and NanoRacks to host future iterations of SSEP on the NanoRacks platform on board the International Space Station."

Below are reports written by representatives of several of the communities involved on how the SSEP affected students there.

Ballston Spa, N.Y. -- The Development of Fish Eggs in Space
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Broward County, Fla. -- Apples in Space
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Canyons School District, Utah -- Microgravity's Effects on Morphogens in Common Species
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Central Consolidated School District, N.M. -- Does the Radiation Exposure Affect Seed Germination Without the Protection of the Ozone Layer?
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El Paso, Texas -- The Effect of Microgravity on Biofilm Formation by E. coli on Polystyrene Particles
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Guilford County, N.C. -- Brine Shrimp Development
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Jefferson County, Ky. -- The Effect of Microgravity on the Viability of Lactobacillus GG
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Lincolnwood, Ill. -- Efficiency of Microencapsulation in Microgravity as Compared to Gravity
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Orange County, Fla. -- The Effect of Microgravity on the Ability of Ethanol to Kill E. Coli
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Portland, Ore. -- Lysozyme Protein Crystal Growth in Microgravity
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Seattle, Wash. -- How Does Spaceflight Alter Mutation Rate, Growth Rate, Rate of Plasmid Uptake, and Ability to Withstand Subsequent Stressors in a Bacterial Strain?
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St. Mary's Country, Md. -- Swimming Patterns and Development of Zebra Fish after Exposure to Microgravity
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Zachary, La. -- What Is the Effect of Microgravity on the Growth Rate of Murine Myoblasts?
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Related Resources:
› Student Scientists Fly Investigations to the Space Station
› STS-134: Mysteries of the Cosmos!
› Student Spaceflight Experiments Program   →
› Summaries of Experiments Selected for the STS-134 Mission   →
› The SSEP Participating Community Network Site   →
› National Center for Earth and Space Science Education   →
› NanoRacks   →
› 21st Century Earth and Space Explorations Spawn New Partnerships   →
› The Naming of Space Shuttle Endeavour

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services