Bullis Space Experiment Lifts Off
When Skylar Jordan and Amanda Kay won the Bullis SSEP competition, they thought their experiment would get to the International Space Station in the summer of 2016. Soon, though, they learned the uncertainties and obstacles of space flight, as the launch of the Mission 9 "Endeavor" payload was delayed. And delayed some more, due to technical difficulties in the line-up of payloads before Endeavor.
Finally, Mission 9 launched on February 19, and Skylar and Amanda's experiment, along with 20 others representing the research and plans of 84 student researchers from around the country. These were selected out of nearly 2500 proposed experiments.
Amanda and Skylar's experiment appears quite simple. It asks the astronauts to, step-by-step, mix a bacteria with water and shake a few times. But the experiment is much more sophisticated and may have real and lasting implications for our world. "We know that this specific bacteria, shewanella oneidensis, removes metal ions from water," explains Skylar. "So we wondered if it would just as well in microgravity," continued Amanda, "which might be helpful in the future as space colonies on other planets are considered."
The girls have been conducting their 'ground truth' experiment here on earth in the science lab of their project teacher, Dr. Daniel TerBush, at the same time the astronauts in the ISS have been conducting it. When the payload with the SSEP experiments returns to Earth later in March, the girls will await the delivery of their experiment back to Bullis.
At that time, they will measure and examine the results, and compare them to the ground truth experiment. They eagerly await the results, and fundamentally hope as well that the bacteria itself survived the longer-than-expected time it had to live in the experiment tubes. "It should last quite a long time," explained Dr. TerBush, but we won't know until we get to check it out.