On the 12th July Kiera White, and myself (Ellie Matthews) travelled to King’s College London, with 45 other students from R-CT- to complete a five day project. The project was for International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET) with NASA in the hope that it would be launched onto the international space station. Unfortunately our group did not win overall but we had an amazing week!
We were introduced to Chris Barber (the founder of ISSET), Mike Foale (an astronaut), Dr Julie Keeble (a pharmacology lecturer), Sarah Murray (Assistant Chief of EVA, Robotics and Crew Systems at NASA) and Ben (our mentor). We were put to work to create a team name and mission patch. A mission patch is a special badge designed by the crew of a space mission which is then worn by the astronauts. We voted on the best ones and our team won both votes. The final competition of the day was to try and safely land an egg after it is dropped from 30 feet above the ground using equipment such as parachutes and balloons. The team with the egg that did not break and had the lowest expenditure won. Unfortunately our team did not win, even though our egg didn’t break. This competition was based on how NASA safely landed the Mars Rover on Mars and space craft on the moon.
On Tuesday the lectures started and the real competition began. The first lecture was presented by Sarah on her journey to become the Assistant Chief of EVA for NASA and how her job has influenced the missions sent up to the ISS. This was followed by Mike Foales’ experiences as an astronaut and his time in the international space station. Throughout the day we really got to understand the issues of iving in space and how difficult it is for the astronauts to adapt to the microgravity environment, this gave us a really good place to start on our research into our experiment. When we began designing our experiment we looked at very basic ideas and built on them until we had a solid idea, it was very important for us to keep our experiment simple but relevant so it had the largest impact, increasing our chance of our experiment winning.
Wednesday was focused on how humans react to being in a microgravity environment, the problems caused by the way fluid is redistributed around the body and how muscle and bone mass is lost when in space. This created restrictions on the experiment which were further complicated by the fact we only had a 10cmX10cmX5cm box to do the experiment in. In the evening we had the chance to talk to and ask questions via a video link with Scott Kelly, an astronaut currently at the ISS carrying out a one year study on how space affects the body in comparison to his twin who is on earth. This was really fascinating and amazing to be a part of.
The last two days were focused on our experiment. We had a day and a half to complete it in our groups and create a presentation. We presented in small groups to two judges and then the best experiments went into the final. In the final we presented to everybody on mission discovery and a whole panel of judges. The winning experiment will be launched onto the international space station in the next few years.
The whole week was fun filled and we would definitely do it all again. We met loads of lovely people who we had an amazing week with. If you get the opportunity to go take it and enjoy yourself because we know we did.