TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Three experiments concocted by Tampa Bay area middle schoolers are headed to space during Thursday’s resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Experiments from Hillsborough and Sarasota county students were selected to travel to the ISS as part of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education’s Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.
Randall Middle School in Lithia is sending two experiments to the space station studying microgreens, which NASA has identified as a promising source of nutrition for astronauts. Microgreens are the vegetables and herbs already eaten on Earth, but harvested as young seedlings.
“I like solving problems and I like plants so these two things together is kind of like a dream come true,” seventh grader Nathan Bohra told WFLA’s Amanda Holly last month.
Students aim to see how quickly a “Red Garnet” amaranth will sprout in space and if it will keep its nutritional value as it grows. The young researchers believe “it is the ideal plant to take on long-duration expeditions in space” and has the potential to “contribute significantly to astronaut diets in long-duration space missions into the Moon and Mars,” according to the mission website.
The school is also sending up a second, similar experiment testing how sesame microgreens perform in microgravity.
Like the Hillsborough County students, middle schoolers at Pine View School for the Gifted in Osprey hope their research will benefit those living in space. Their experiment investigates how the microalga Chlorella vulgaris will remove nitrogen and phosphorous from wastewater in microgravity.
“Water is essential for all forms of life, so having access to clean water and efficiently recycling it is critical as humans venture deep in space,” the mission website stated. “Microalgae are emerging as a sustainable solution for water treatment and nutrient recycling.”
Students will compare their results to a second, concurrent experiment taking place on Earth to determine the effects of microgravity.
How to watch Thursday’s launch
NASA is partnering with SpaceX to launch its Falcon 9 rocket, topped with the Dragon spacecraft, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Thursday’s launch is planned for 8:28 p.m., according to the SpaceX website.
“The weather continues to trend very favorably for an initial launch attempt,” Patrick Space Force Base forecasters reported Wednesday. If needed, there is a backup launch opportunity available on Friday at 8:05 p.m.
After Dragon separates from the rocket, Falcon 9 will return to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Dragon is expected to reach the ISS on Saturday at around 5:20 a.m., if the launch goes off without a hitch.