Pupils have high hopes for Space Station experiment

Pupils have high hopes for Space Station experiment
Pupils from Tonbridge School and Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School

The project was chosen to be carried out in orbit after it won a ‘Mission Discovery’ competition run by the International Space School Educational Trust [Isset] at Tonbridge School last year.

The pupils were investigating whether yeast (specifically, the saccharomyces cerevisiae species of yeast) can successfully sexually reproduce under the stress of microgravity.

On Monday [March 2] the experiment will be placed on board NASA’s Space X spacecraft for mission CRS 20 to resupply the International Space Station.

It has been built by a team of scientists led by Dr Julie Keeble, Isset’s Chief Scientist and Senior Lecturer of Pharmacology at King’s College, London.

It is one of seven experiments devised by young people around the world, which will be conducted by astronauts in orbit.

The winning team included Sixth Formers Thomas Stack, Godwyn Lai and Edward Barry from Tonbridge School, and Sarah Prescott and Abigail Colley of Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School.

In their investigation, yeast is being used as a model organism for human cell biology, and may offer insights into the effects of exposure to microgravity and radiation in spaceflight on reproduction.

Edward said: “Knowing that something I directly contributed to will be put in space is an incredible feeling.

“Teamwork was the key to succeeding. With such time pressure, each teammate was invaluable, from the brainstorm to the final presentation.”

Godwyn added: “I never thought I’d be able to say I have designed an experiment that was then conducted in space! I found Mission Discovery to be an incredibly enriching experience.”

Tonbridge was the first UK school to host Mission Discovery in March last year, with pupils from The Judd School, Weald of Kent, The Skinners’ School, Skinners’ Kent Academy and The Marsh Academy also attending the five-day event .

Two former International Space Station Commanders were also present, NASA astronauts Dr Michael Foale CBE, the first British-born NASA astronaut who has been on six missions into space, and Dr Steve Swanson.

James Priory, the Headmaster of Tonbridge School, said: “It’s hard to imagine a more exciting prize for students than to see their experiment being flown into space and carried out by NASA astronauts.

“Mission Discovery was a fun and inspiring event for everyone who took part, and one which put education and innovation centre stage.”


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