Mission Discovery

Mission Discovery

20th Jun 2019

Two TWGGS sixth formers are part of a winning team who have devised an experiment that will be carried out on NASA’s International Space Station. During a week in March, the ‘Mission Discovery’ project was hosted by Tonbridge School. It was the first time that the scheme, based on NASA’s own development programme, had been hosted by a UK school.

The week-long course saw pupils competing in mixed teams to design an experiment to benefit humanity. The experiment had to be durable, small, simple, and have many benefits. Together with other members of ‘The Argonauts’ team, Abi and Sarah planned an investigation into whether yeast can reproduce sexually in microgravity.

This was a fantastic opportunity for TWGGS pupils to work alongside NASA astronauts and a team of leading scientists and post-graduate students, formulating their experiments and also learning about various aspects of space research; among other areas, they looked at how the body adapts to weightlessness and the benefits to the planet of conducting experiments in space.

All of the TWGGS participants did extremely well, with half of the final six teams (out of 24 altogether) having our sixth formers as members. On the final evening of the course, the finalists presented their complex ideas to the judges, before being grilled on the details of the experiments. Parents of the team members also got the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with the astronauts, Dr Michael Foale, a British born astrophysicist, who has flown on six space missions) and Dr Steve Swanson (an American engineer with over 4,700 hours in space and 4 spacewalks).

The winning team now embarks on a two year process of working with King’s College London and NASA, which will culminate in their experiment being launched from Orlando, Florida, on a Space X rocket.

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