Plan Ahead for 2019-20: Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) - Mission 14 to the International Space Station

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Jennifer Mayo

Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) - Mission 14 to the International Space Station

A U.S. National Model STEM Education Initiative

Program Start: September 2019

Inquiry Deadline: June 17, 2019

Contact: Dr. Jeff Goldstein, Center Director National Center for Earth and Space Science Education 301-395-0770,

The Opportunity for Your Community

Your school district, even a single large school, conducts an authentic, and grade level appropriate, science research competition September to November 2019, for typically 300 of your students in the grade 5-12 range.

In your community, teams of 3-5 students would each design and write a formal proposal for a microgravity experiment (an experiment in a ‘weightless’ environment) in a science discipline of their choice, to be conducted on the International Space Station. The essential question driving experiment design is:

What physical, chemical, or biological system would I like to explore with gravity seemingly turned off for a period of time, as a means of assessing the role of gravity in that system?

A curriculum and content resources for teachers and students support foundational instruction on science conducted in microgravity and experiment design, and a 2-hour professional development video-conference is conducted for your entire educator team before program start.

Each Science experiment must be designed against the Engineering constraints imposed by the flight certified mini-laboratory that must be used, and by the real world Technology constraints of flight operations to and from Low Earth Orbit. This is authentic, real world STEM, as a project-based learning initiative.

A 2-step proposal review process, using a formal proposal evaluation rubric, culminates in a national review board meeting at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, in December 2019, and selecting one of your student team experiments to launch from Kennedy Space Center on a SpaceX rocket in late Spring 2020. Your community’s experiment will be transported 250 miles above Earth’s surface to the International Space Station where it will be operated by the astronauts for a month, and then returned to your student flight team for harvesting and analysis. You can send a delegation of students, parents, teachers, and administrators to the launch in Florida, and to the SSEP National Conference held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in early July, in Washington, DC.

This competition mirrors how professional scientists and engineers compete for limited research resources, such as access to unique facilities or funding, through a call for proposals from organizations like NASA, NSF, or NIH. If the core objective of formal education is to prepare our students for the real world, then students exploring STEM careers ought to understand what is expected of them. It is why SSEP was created.

SSEP is not a simulation. Since each participating community is assigned one experiment slot for transport to the International Space Station, we are truly offering you your own space program, and an opportunity for hundreds of your students to become very real researchers, going through the exact same process as professional researchers.

You can also conduct art and design competitions (grades K-16) resulting in up to two Mission Patches to fly with your experiment. The design theme is the 50th anniversary of Apollo on the Moon, and many communities are using SSEP Mission 14 as a way to commemorate the Moon landings - the most remarkable journeys ever undertaken by the human race. What better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo than having your own space program engaging the next generation?

To explore this opportunity for your community, read the Announcement of Opportunity:

For complete program details, carefully read the home page, which serves as a program Executive Summary:

**You are welcome to contact me regarding this opportinuty. I was a participant in Misson 1! - Jennifer