AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many students had the unique opportunity to work with a former NASA astronaut in hopes to have their experiment sent to the International Space Station.
Higher Orbits is a non-profit that brings the program Go For Launch! across the country. There are about a dozen of these events scheduled, with more in the works for 2016. During each event, the students work on a variety of collaborative activities, but the main focus is for every team to design an experiment they’d like to see tested in space.
They compete with teams in their summer camps. Then a winner is picked from each event. Depending on funding, the overall divisional winner (or winners) will actually have their experiments launched to the International Space Station.
It’s a program Michelle Lucas is excited to bring to Austin for the first time. “It’s three days where we bring in an astronaut to work with students… on a variety of STEM related topics, all based in space but not necessarily trying to make everybody a rocket scientist. It’s just space is a great way to get kids excited about science,” she said.
Former NASA astronaut, Mike Foreman, has flown to space on two separate missions. Now that he’s retired, Mike is on a completely different assignment.
“I’m getting to interact with students here this week and exchange ideas,” Foreman says. “Tell them about my background, how I became an astronaut, hopefully inspire somebody to want to be an engineer or maybe even an astronaut one day.”
Foreman is also using his personal experiences to inspire students to always keep trying and working towards their goals. “I applied to NASA multiple times because not all of us get accepted to be astronauts the first time we apply,” Foreman tells us. “So for me, the eighth time was the charm. In 1998 I was lucky enough to be accepted into the program and I worked as an astronaut for 17 years.”
It’s an experience that high school sophomore Juliana Morris is grateful to be a part of. Morris and her teammates are planning to experiment with flatworms infected with cancer cells to determine the positive and negative impacts of radiation in space.
“One [group] is going to be infected with cancer cells and one is not going to” explains Morris. “We’re going to see if any astronauts who have underlying cancer to see if radiation from going into space would prolong the process or maybe speed it up a lot so they could have a lot worse outcomes from going into space and seeing what would happen just in case.”
Organizers say that due to the high cost of transporting the experiments, the winning team won’t get their get their project back. It will be destroyed after the experiments are conducted.
St. Edward’s University is the only university in Texas that hosted a “Go-for-Launch” camp this summer.
To find out more about “Go For Launch!”, visit their website.