Just because NASA is contracting out its space program to the private sector doesn’t mean that its long history of collaborating with budding scientists is over. On Friday, when the SpaceX Dragon docked at the international space station its 1,200 pounds of cargo included a science experiment created by four eighth-graders and two high school seniors from Hartford.
Students at Annie Fischer STEM Magnet School and University High School want to know if its possible to stop astronauts’ bones from losing density while in space, a problem that can lead to osteoporosis. The students designed an experiment that uses a natural hormone produced in the thyroid gland to stimulate the growth of bone-building cells.
Aime Levesque, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Hartford, mentored the students. She says the experiment will begin in earnest when scientists at the Space Station crack open a vial to releasE the chemical onto bone cells that have been sent into the exo-sphere.
“We weant to test the affect of the hormone on cells in space so we don’t want the cells to have contact with the hormone until they get to space.” Levesque said. ” Right now the cells are packed on the dragon capsule. The dragon capsule will arrive at the International Space Station and once it does, astronauts will snap the tube.”
Levesque says a specific return date for the spacex dragon has not been announced yet. but when it does return, its cargo will be particularly eagerly awaited by a group of students in Connecticutt