Spearheaded by CU-Boulder, and experiment involving the study of spiders, fruit flies and seeds will begin on April 29, as NASA’s space shuttle Endeavor leaves for its final flight, carrying the specimens.
The complete experiment will consist of three parts, each focusing on the low gravity effects of the three types of specimens- web spinning and feeding abilities of the spiders, the behavior and flight abilities of the fruit flies and the germination of the seeds.
The experiments were designed and built in CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences department at BioServe Space Technologies.
Principal Investigator for the BioServe project, Stefanie Countryman said in a news release, “To be able to use a facility like the International Space Station for these K-12 experiments and involve thousands of teachers and students is tremendously exciting. There is no other educational program like this in the world, and we are convinced it’s a great way to inspire students to excel in science, technology, engineering and math.”
The CU payload on board the Endeavor consists of habitats for each group of specimens, with specific experiments designed for each.
One of the spider experiments seeks to answer questions about the abilities of young banana spiders to spin their three dimensional webs after having matured in a low gravity environment.
The other experiment will be conducted in the spider’s habitat upon the behavior and motion of the fruit flies which are also the spider’s food.
The seed experiment will involve finding what is required to successfully germinate mustard seeds and if the direction of their growth can be controlled in low-gravity. Different light wavelengths will be employed to attempt to direct the seed growth direction, with some seeds being planted in varying densities to find out which direction the seeds germinate, having no “up or down” in space.
Approximately 1,500 K-12 teachers of more than 90,000 students nationwide have obtained the official classroom teaching material for the experiment, and many more are expected to participate informally.
Some of the schools participating are in the Colorado Jefferson, Aurora, Brighton and Douglas County School District.
BioServe is also collaborating with numerous institutions: Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Butterfly Pavilion (Westminster, Colorado), the National Space Biomedical Research Institute at Baylor University, the Biomedical Behavior and Performance Lab at NASA Ames Research Center (California), the University of Basel (Switzerland), North Carolina State University and one private facility in Gainesville, Florida.
The effort is funded by the International Space Station National Lab Education Office.
More information on the experiments is available at http://colorado.edu and http://www.orionquest.org.
Teachers can download free education guides and data, images and videos of the spiders, flies and seeds can be viewed at http://bioedonline.org.
The flight will be commanded by Mark Kelly.
BioServe is a non-profit, NASA funded CU-Boulder center, founded in 1987. For more on BioServe, go to http://www.colorado.edu/engineering/BioServe/index.html.
attributions: CU news via Jim Scott