NanoRacks-National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-Aquarius (SSEP Mission 1) (NanoRacks-NCESSE-Aquarius) - 07.19.17

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The NanoRacks-National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-Aquarius (NanoRacks-NCESSE-Aquarius) 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 payload includes 15 science experiments from 12 school districts across the United States. Student teams design their own experiments using flight approved fluids and materials and are flown in a NanoRacks Module.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Jeff Goldstein, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Jeff Goldstein, Ph.D., National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, Ellicott City, MD, United States

Information Pending

NanoRacks, LLC, Webster, TX, United States
National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, Ellicott City, MD, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
May 2012 - September 2012

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The 15 experiments comprising NanoRacks-National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-Aquarius (NanoRacks-NCESSE-Aquarius) are the culmination of the third 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 15 experiments were selected from 779 student team proposals, engaging 3,490 grade 5-14 students in microgravity experiment design.

  • 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-Aquarius 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 remarkable commercial U.S. national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative that to date has provided 87,000 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-Aquarius (NanoRacks-NCESSE-Aquarius) includes the following 15 student experiments:
  • Effect of Microgravity on the Antibacterial Resistance of P. aeruginosa
    San Marino High School, Grade 10, San Marino, CA
    Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa)
    is capable of living in nutrient deprived places, like dirt and distilled water, and is deadly to those with compromised immune systems. Its deadliness is not scientists' only concern; P. aeruginosa is resistant to many common antibacterial agents, penicillin being one of them. Now that space travel is becoming more common, we must take more precaution to ensure the safety of our crewmembers from the smallest of killers. By growing two samples of P. aeruginosa, one in space and one under the influence of gravity, and submitting both to various antibiotics, we are able to measure the antibacterial resistance of both cultures. The zones of inhibition, where the bacteria are unable to grow due to the antibacterial agent, accurately show how resistant P. aeruginosa is to each antibiotic. Any variation in the zones of inhibition of the same antibiotic between cultures would be due to any changes that occurred in the bacteria's resistance when grown in space.
  • Microgravity Wine
    Chaminade College Preparatory, Grades 9 and 10, West Hills, CA
    Microgravity Wine tests the speed of fermentation when it is exposed to microgravity. When something is in microgravity it is in a constant free fall, so it is constantly moving the solution of grape juice and yeast. When the sugar in the grape juice is mixed with the yeast it begins to ferment due to lack of oxygen producing ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. The microgravity is constantly moving the cells in the solution, which either speeds up or slows down the process of fermentation. The fermentation is tested by using a titration rating, which measures the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide in the solution. Finding the titration rating determines if the one in an environment with gravity or the one in an environment without gravity produces more carbon dioxide. Whichever solution gives off more carbon dioxide is the one that fermented faster than the other.
  • How Does Parathyroid Hormone Affect Changes in Bone Mass in Microgravity?
    Annie Fisher Stem Magnet and University High School of Science and Engineering, Grades 8 and 12, Hartford, CT
    This experiment tests how microgravity affects medicine used to treat bone loss (osteoporosis). Fluids behave differently in microgravity, by exposing these medicines to an environment with very weak gravity; the medicine might better promote the growth of bones. This project is extremely interesting because of the problems osteoporosis has on the crewmembers as they travel back and forth into space. The goal is to help the studies of osteoporosis, and have an impact on the development of medicines today. When the experiment returns, the effect of the medicine in microgravity on the growth of bone cells is examined.
  • Does Hay Bacillus Break Down Human Waste (Represented by Brown Egg) in Microgravity as Well as in Earth Gravity?
    Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Grade 8, Washington, DC
    This experiment tests Hay Bacillus' ability to break down human waste (here represented by brown egg samples) in microgravity versus its ability in a septic tank on Earth. This experiment is relevant because if people on long space expeditions can recycle used water, this significantly decreases the initial amount that they need to bring with them into space. This would also decrease the amount of space initially used to store the water, however a water recycling machine would probably take up the saved space if not use more. The experiment could also be a base for the testing of Hay Bacillus as an antibiotic, as it was used for cures to colon diseases like dysentery and as an immune system stimulant.
  • Effect of Microgravity on Reproduction of Curli Producing E. coli O157:H7 438950R
    Avicenna Academy, Grade 7, Lake County, IN
    This experiment tests the effect of microgravity on reproduction of curli producing E. coli O157:H7 438950R. E. coli O157:H7 438950R is one of the E. coli strains that produce Curli. Curli are little things that stick out on the outside that help them stick together and help them when they attack other cells. This experiment determines if microgravity has an effect on the production and/or expression of E. coli O157:H7 438950R's curli. With the future of space exploration focused on colonization of other planets, it's important to know how disease-causing bacteria act in different gravity.
  • The Effect of Microgravity on the Quality and Nutritional Value of the Seed Sprout of a Germinated 92M72 Genetically-Modified Soy Bean
    Highland Christian School, Grades 7 and 8, Lake County, IN
    This experiment tests the effect of microgravity on the nutritional value of a 92M72 genetically-modified soy bean sprout. A large struggle for the International Space Station is the cost of shipping food from the Earth. If the crewmembers are able to grow their own food on the space station, this cost is almost eliminated. The sprout from a soybean would be an excellent nutritional food source for space travel. The goal is to show that a soybean sprout grown in microgravity retains its nutritional value as compared to one grown on earth.
  • Killifish in Space
    OA-BCIG High School, Grades 9–12, Ida County, IA
    As a submitting project, we would like to send up dormant Killifish eggs. After settling on the ISS, these eggs are rehydrated. After this process is completed, testing begins. Results determine if the bone and muscle mass of the fish has been affected, being that micro-gravity's pulling force is no where comparable to Earth's gravity. Another part of this testing, since these fish have kidneys, would be able to tell if, even for such a small species, these animals have kidney stones. This testing helps with the health of humans.
  • The Physiological Effects of Microgravity and Increased Levels of Radiation on Wild-Type and Genetically Engineered Caenorhabditis elegans
    Henry E. Lackey High School, Grade 11, Charles County, MD
    This experiment investigates the physiological effects of microgravity and increased levels of radiation on various systems of two sets, each with a copy of two strains of Caenorhabditis elegans, one set grown in space under the influence of microgravity and increased radiation levels, and the other set grown on Earth under the influence of normal levels of gravity and radiation levels. The first strain is the wild-type C. elegans strain. The second strain has a mutated daf-2 gene which has been observed to double the lifespan of C. elegans and increase the lifespan of other species, including humans. It is hypothesized that microgravity and increased levels of radiation significantly alter the physiological properties of the biological systems of the C. elegans strains and negatively affect the daf-2 mutation, thereby decreasing the lifespan of the genetically modified C. elegans strain, although the genetically modified strain has a longer lifespan than the wild-type strain. Halves of the two sets of strains of C. elegans are compared under a Stereo Light Microscope with a Digital Camera attached and a Scanning Electron Microscope at the University of Richmond for physiological differences. The other halves are examined daily under an x25 microscope for evidence of altered reproductive cycles, and life spans. Because C. elegans have been extensively experimented with, and the developmental patterns of all 959 of its somatic cells have been traced, such differences should be easily found. This information is then used to make inferences about how future space travelers can prepare themselves from the potential side-effects of microgravity and increased levels of radiation.
  • Effect of Arthrobacter on Polyethylene Decomposition Rate in Microgravity
    Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, Grades 10 and 12, Fitchburg, MA
    The purpose of this experiment is to determine if a culture of the genus Arthrobacter has a noticeable increase in the decomposition of polyethylene. Arthrobacter is a genus composed of bioremediators: microorganisms that remove pollutants from the environment. These bacteria are capable of hydrolyzing polyethylene, a hydrocarbon polymer. The goal in bringing these plastics into microgravity is to discover a more efficient way of degrading plastics, and possibly isolate the sole species responsible for it.
  • Escherichia coli in Microgravity
    Norris High School, Grade 12, Pleasanton and Norris, NE
    This experiment studies the effects of microgravity on the DNA of pathogenic bacteria. Both Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterial cells, which are rehydrated in flight, and extracted E. coli DNA are sent into space to determine if bacterial DNA degrades in microgravity and the extent of any such degradation. Two experiments are included because there is a risk that the rehydrated E. coli may die before the DNA can be extracted and analyzed, which would cause DNA degradation not due to microgravity. Therefore, a vial filled with previously extracted E. coli DNA is also included, which will survive the length of the space flight. When the experiment returns from the International Space Station (ISS), the DNA is extracted from the rehydrated E. coli, restriction enzymes are used to create DNA fingerprints of the genome and the results are analyzed with horizontal gel electrophoresis. The second experiment, the E. coli DNA extracted prior to the space flight, and the control DNA are cut using the same restriction enzymes and analyzed with gel electrophoresis for comparison. By analyzing the DNA fingerprints, significant degradation is determined, possibly changing the DNA fingerprint of the bacteria.
  • Spider Development and Gravity
    Quebec Heights, Grade 5, Cincinnati, OH
    Spider Development and Gravity determines how micro-gravity affects the developments of the orb spider. NASA has already sent orb spiders into space to see the effect of gravity on the adult spider. This experiment concluded that spiders can live without food for three weeks if water is available. Spider Development in Gravity continues this experiment by seeing what effect gravity has on the development of the eggs. Another goal of this investigation is to establish the differences and/or similarities of spiders hatched in space and on earth. The size of the spider in millimeters is observed and measured, as well as its color and the physical development of body parts (i.e. number of legs). Due to the limitations of space, light and controlling temperatures, there is a control egg sac in an aquarium in order to verify how the spiders develop without changing anything from the natural state. The MixStick in space is compared to the MixStick on Earth and to the spider development in the aquarium. The development of the spiders in space may lead to more experiments using a variety of animals hatching from eggs. This can help in many ways such as producing food chains or possibly having fresh food such as chicken eggs in space.
  • Yeast in Space!
    Cincinnati Gifted Academy, Grade 6, Cincinnati, OH
    This experiment studies the growth of Balcer’s Yeast or S. cerevisiae in a microgravity environment. The physical characteristics of yeast in microgravity are observed and compared to yeast grown under normal gravity. Yeast is chosen because it is readily available, may be transported in a dormant state and activates easily. Also, yeast has a long and delicious history with human kind. If yeast acts in a similar or same way in microgravity it may be a useful organism for future missions as a food ingredient. A MixStix allows the yeast to be kept separate from a nutrient broth (10.5% sucrose in distilled water) until orbit, when they are mixed. After the yeast has had time to grow for a six hours period of time, introducing a 70% ethanol solution terminates the experiment. This way, re-entry and transport after landing does not affect the yeast and both the on orbit and ground truth experiments may be compared.
  • Hepatocyte Development in Bioscaffolds infused with TGFB3 in Microgravity
    Johnston Middle School, Grade 8, Houston, TX
    This project explores whether a bioscaffold infused with growth factor beta 3 (TGFB3) grows and forms structures of hepatocyte cells faster in microgravity than in normal gravity. This project builds on and combines previous work on: 1) the ability of hepatocytes to form structures in bioscaffolds in a simulated microgravity environment that could not be formed in normal gravity; 2) the accelerated growth of cartilage cells grown in bioscaffolds infused with TGFB3. Further understanding of improved bioscaffolding in microgravity with the addition of growth factor to increase rate of growth lays the ground work for the eventual growth of replacement tissue, joints, and even organs that is not currently possible in normal gravity. In this experiment, hepatocytes are cultured in space for 2 days and then preserved with formaldehyde so that it can be returned for analysis. Upon return to normal gravity, the cell growth and formation are compared with the control group that has been developed in normal gravity, both with and without TGFB3 infusion into the growth medium.
  • Will Vitamin C Preserve Bone Density in Microgravity?
    Parker Elementary School, Grade 5, Houston, TX
    This experiment tests to see if liquid Vitamin C preserved bone density in microgravity in a chicken bone. This experiment is conducted to prove whether or not vitamin C can preserve bone density. First, a wish bone is split in half. Next, one half is placed in each MixStix. Finally, one wish bone half is flown in a chamber into space. The other bone sample remains in the same type of chamber on earth. When the one from space returns, the affects of microgravity on the bone are measured and compared to the sample on earth in an effort to see if liquid Vitamin C did preserve bone density.
  • The Effect of Microgravity on the Use of Cactus Mucilage for Water Purification
    El Paso Community College Valle Verde Campus, College Sophomores, El Paso, TX
    Cacti are incredible organisms due to their diverse beneficial features such as: the growing of penicillin on the roots, excellent source of carbohydrates and minerals, great endurance to harsh conditions, great for human hydration, and the recently found feature of using cacti mucilage to purify water. For all these reasons, cacti are a wonderful candidate for future space farms. In fact, cacti are already being tested for spatial use. The main focus of this experiment is to test the ability of Opuntia ficus-indica's mucilage to purify water. The possible use of its mucilage to clean water contaminated with chromium is tested, in space. This characteristic of the mucilage may have helpful benefits in the future mainly for two reasons: purification of moon water and possible recycling of the water used in space missions. This experiment focuses on the possible purification of the water found on the moon. Chromium can be found on the moon in small proportions, but it can be very harmful if ingested; that is the reason the removal of this mineral from water is tested. If mucilage water-purification proves to be unaffected by microgravity, the process may be viable for the purification of the moon's water.

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Space Applications
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.

Earth Applications
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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Operational Requirements and Protocols
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 15 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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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

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Results Publications

    Warren P, Golden A, Hanover J, Love D, Shephard F, Szewczyk NJ.  Evaluation of the Fluids Mixing Enclosure System for Life Science Experiments During a Commercial Caenorhabditis elegans Spaceflight Experiment . Advances in Space Research. 2013; epub. DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2013.02.002.

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

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Related Websites

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