Reporting Matt Brickman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Despite some engine trouble shortly after launch, a science experiment designed by a group of Minnesota high-schoolers was on its way Friday to the International Space Station.
It’s part of the SpaceX Dragon capsule that is flying supplies to the astronauts aboard the ISS.
“I think it just hit home for me, like right now, that our experiment was actually going into space,” said Ashley Lundeen, a senior at Minnehaha Academy who is the co-manager of the project.
The students have been working on the experiment since last summer, when Minnehaha Academy was selected as one of just eight schools in the country to have this opportunity.
“There were a lot of late nights, a lot of Friday nights that we were spending at school until 7 or 8 o’clock,” Lundeen said.
The result of their work is small in stature, no bigger than a stick of butter, but with the potential for long-term space travel on the horizon, it could mean a giant leap in spacecraft maintenance.
“Materials will break down, and they need to repair them; and one of the primary repair substances are polymers,” said Nancy Cripe, one of the project’s mentors.
Polymers are the building blocks of many adhesives and rubbers. The experiment will test how they behave in reduced gravity.
“Will they be able to repair something on Mars with a polymer the same way they can repair it here on earth?” Cripe said.
The answer to that question will come in a few months. But as the classmates gathered to watch the live NASA feed Friday, all they were hoping for was a successful launch.
“I’m really proud of it, I know we all are,” Lundeen said.
By coincidence, one of the astronauts aboard the Space Station has a connection to Minnehaha Academy.