Students will looked to the skies when SpaceX's fifth commercial resupply services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station lifted off at 6:18 a.m. EST Tuesday, Jan. 6, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft carried scientific research conceived and designed by students who are learning first-hand what it takes to conduct research in space.
Eighteen Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) teams worked to prepare the investigations in time to fly to the space station. The teams previously had their research aboard Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket, which suffered a failure during launch in October.
"I try to teach students, when I speak to them, not to be afraid of failure. An elementary school student once told me, when I asked for a definition of success, that ‘success is taking failure and turning it inside out.’ It is important that we rebound, learn from these events and try again -- and that's a great lesson for students," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "I am delighted that most of the students will get to see their investigations re-flown on tomorrow’s SpaceX mission. Perseverance is a critical skill in science and the space business."
SSEP managers and supporters worked to ensure the students' experiments were prepared and ready for the next available launch. The student experiments were rebuilt and shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for stowage aboard SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, destined for the space station.
"Failure happens in science, and what we do in the face of that failure defines who we are," said Jeff Goldstein, director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, which oversees SSEP in partnership with NanoRacks LLC and, for international participation, the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education. "NASA and NanoRacks moved mountains to get us on the next launch, SpaceX CRS-5. We faced an insanely tight turnaround, but all the student teams stepped up to the plate."
This unplanned lesson in real-world science fits with SSEP's goal of immersing and engaging students and their teachers in conducting authentic space science, just like professional investigators.
The student experiments will investigate a range of topics from a crystal growth study that will enable students to learn more about how fluids act and form into crystals in the absence of gravity to how microgravity affect milk spoilage. This set of student experiments collectively is known as Yankee Clipper and is the eighth flight opportunity associated with the SSEP.
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station, is a national sponsor for SSEP and funds nine of the Yankee Clipper investigations. Additionally, CASIS is committed to re-flying six student experiments from its National Design Challenge program that were lost with Antares.