The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is a powerful platform to connect students with space, engage them in project-based learning, and spark an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Multiple education payloads are preparing for launch to the space station on SpaceX’s 17th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission, providing students with the opportunity to conduct authentic research onboard the ISS National Lab.
Included on this mission is the sixth student investigation awarded through the Genes in Space competition, in which students in grades 7 through 12 compete to send their DNA experiments to the space station. The project, from a team of high school students in Minnesota, seeks to improve understanding of microgravity’s effects on the mechanisms of DNA repair. This will be the first student experiment to couple DNA amplification using a mini PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machine with DNA sequencing to read the DNA while in orbit. Read more about the Genes in Space program in the Upward feature article “Launching a Dream: Exploring DNA in Space.”
Also launching on SpaceX CRS-17 is a project from the winning team of students from the 2018 Wisconsin Crystal Growing Competition, which is held by the Molecular Structure Laboratory of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Chemistry Department. Through this program, Wisconsin students ages 11 to 18 compete to grow the biggest and highest-quality single crystal on the ground. Winning students have the opportunity to grow crystals onboard the ISS National Lab to test their optimized conditions for Earth-based crystallization against microgravity-based crystallization. Learn more about the Wisconsin Crystal Growing Competition in the Upward spotlight article “Student Contest Winners Fly Crystals to Space” and in the ISS360 article “Taking Crystallization from the Classroom to the Space Station.”
Students with payloads on this mission will give presentations on their spaceflight projects on Tuesday, April 30 at 10 a.m. at the Kennedy Space Center Journey to Mars Theater. They will also participate in a poster session at the Atlantis exhibit at 11 a.m. The SpaceX CRS-17 launch is currently scheduled no earlier than Friday, May 3.
For more information about ISS National Lab educational programs and initiatives, visit www.spacestationexplorers.org.