A glob of glue subjected to zero gravity might lose some of its stickiness, says Ladue, Mo., Junior High School student Melissa Melish.
The 13-year-old is one of 10 Ladue Junior High students who got the chance to test some of their space theories, thanks to the space shuttle Atlantis.
The eighth-graders joined students from eight other area schools to participate in a special science program at Washington University in St. Louis that enabled them to launch their experiments into orbit aboard Atlantis.
The Ladue students wanted to see how everyday objects such as glue, toothpaste, hand wipes, computer disks, and rubber balls fared in space. They wanted to know if the objects functioned the same when they return to earth, or if space somehow changed them.
Science teacher Elizabeth Petersen explained that the students are learning what role such objects could someday have on a space station.
“We hope to learn about how space exposure may affect these objects. We’d like to see if the rubber ball would lose elasticity. The rubber could be used for seals around doors in a space station, and we need to see if the rubber would break down and leak.”
Students watched on television as the shuttle lifted off Sept. 8 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
“It’s cool. Our stuff is up in space now,” said Meredith Blank, 13, who along with her friend Kylie Dillon, 13, will study the effects of space on Colgate tartar-control toothpaste. “It’s officially space paste,” Blank said.
Other schools that participated in the shuttle launch included the Center for Creative Learning in Ellisville, Glenn Ridge Elementary School in Clayton, Hazelwood West High School in Hazelwood, Seckman High School in Imperial, Mary Institute and Country Day School in St. Louis County, Bristol Elementary School in Webster Groves, and Marissa High School from Marissa, Ill.
The space shuttle was headed for the International Space Station. While the crew embarked on a mission to prepare the station for its first residents, the objects on the shuttle were in the cargo hold, absorbing the effects of zero gravity.
When the objects are returned to the school after the mission, the students will compare those that went to space to identical ones that remained on earth.
“This is totally an exercise in scientific inquiry,” Petersen said. “The students have made their hypotheses about what they predict will happen to the objects when they enter space. When they come back, they will check and test how these objects compare with the control objects on earth and see the effect.”
The students got the opportunity thanks to Project Aria, a Washington University-sponsored program that encourages area school children to come up with experiments that use the shuttle.
The Sept. 8 launch of Atlantis was phase one of the project. St. Louis area students will have two other chances to shoot their experiments into space in the future.
Washington University in St. Louis http://www.wustl.edu
National Aeronautics and Space Administration http://www.nasa.gov