Denver-area high school students take another shot at sending science experiment into orbit

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – A team of students at Lafayette’s Centaurus High School will be watching closely later this month as one of their science experiments blasts off on a rocket headed for the International Space Station.

The rocket launch will hopefully offer some redemption for the Centaurus team. The device they designed and built for the experiment had originally been on a SpaceX rocket that launched in 2015, but that rocket exploded shortly after launch and they lost everything.

With the device now rebuilt, they’re ready to give it another shot.

SLIDESHOW: Centaurus H.S. team launching science experiment into space

The device works like a centrifuge to simulate the force of gravity on vials of bacteria. The students are testing what effects, if any, gravity has on bacterial growth, specifically the lag phase. That’s the period during which bacteria are maturing but not yet multiplying.

The lag phase is much shorter in space, so the students are using their experiment to test the theory that gravity is what makes the process move slower on Earth.

The students say this research could help improve the overall understanding of cells and how the develop and grow.

“Lag phase is one of the least understood parts of the cycle of bacteria and its growth, so if we know that gravity is what affects lag phase, then we can apply that in future research,” junior Megan Schmid said.

The students said they’re excited to see the data from their experiment and to find out if it confirms their theory.

“I hope the data we have supports our hypothesis,” senior Mary Hanson said. “And I hope that [the data] can be used by other companies like NASA or SpaceX or people that are sending people to space, because if we learn about how cells grow in space, it can really impact the long-run of space travel and space exploration.”

Adding to the excitement of the project is the fact that the astronaut who will be carrying out the experiment, Jack Fischer, is himself an alumnus of Centaurus High School, having graduated in 1992.

The students’ experiment will blast into space aboard an Atlas 5 rocket on March 19 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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