A group of Ocean City High School students is in Virginia today to witness their science experiment shoot into space on a mission to the International Space Station.
The six students — Lauren Bowersock, Mercy Griffith, Daniel Loggi, Alison Miles, Kristina Redmond and Kaitland Wriggins — designed an experiment, contained in a test tube, that will be aboard the first nighttime launch from Wallops, NASA’s visitor center and flight facility.
The Antares ORB-3 launch, scheduled for 6:45 p.m. today and visible to observers along the Atlantic Coast, will join the final flights of the space shuttle before connecting Nov. 2 with the International Space Station.
The students’ experiment will examine the effect of microgravity on the attachment rates of E. coli K-12 bacteria to lettuce leaves. Understanding how harmful bacteria are altered in the absence of gravity is important to the health of those traveling in space, said OCHS science teacher Catherine Georges, who advises the group with fellow OCHS science teacher Dan Weaver.
When the three-chamber test tube is returned to the students at OCHS, they will learn whether their hypothesis that E. coli attaches at a lesser rate in space is true. In order to make that determination, the test tube will be compared to a ground control test tube that duplicates the experiment in space.
The three chambers of the test tube are divided into compartments that contain formalin, E. coli in distilled water and lettuce in distilled water. Once in space, the E. coli will be mixed with the lettuce and later fixed with formalin. Students at the high school will follow the same steps with their ground control test tube, and after the space experiment is returned to them, they will analyze the data and report their results.
Ocean City is one of 20 schools nationwide to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, or SSEP. The students departed Ocean City on Sunday morning for the trip.
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