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SpaceX Dragon Transports Student Experiments to Space Station

May 22, 2012

Ann Marie Trotta 
Headquarters, Washington 

RELEASE: 12-160


WASHINGTON -- The SpaceX Dragon capsule, which on Tuesday became the 
first commercially developed and built spacecraft to launch to the 
International Space Station, is carrying among its cargo a suite of 
15 science experiments designed by students. 

Known collectively as Aquarius, the experiments will assess the 
effects of microgravity on physical, chemical and biological systems. 
The students have been immersed in every facet of research, from 
definition of the investigation to experiment design, proposal 
writing and a formal NASA proposal review for selection of flight 

"This unique student activity adds a new dimension to the 
International Space Station and its role as America's only orbiting 
national laboratory," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate 
administrator for Education. "It also clearly demonstrates that 
students still can actively participate in NASA microgravity 
opportunities in the post-shuttle era." 

Aquarius is sponsored by the Student Space Flight Experiments Program 
(SSEP), which is a cooperative venture by the National Center for 
Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) and NanoRacks LLC, a 
national science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) 
education initiative. The organizations work together to give 300 to 
1,000 students across a community the opportunity to design and 
propose microgravity experiments to fly in low Earth orbit. 

The first two SSEP payloads flew in 2011 aboard space shuttles 
Endeavour and Atlantis on the STS-134 and STS-135 missions 
respectively. This third round of experiments will be the first to be 
conducted in orbit by space station astronauts. 

The announcement of opportunity for Aquarius was released in July 
2011. It elicited responses from 12 communities in nine states and 
the District of Columbia. A total of 779 student teams, with 41,200 
members ranging from fifth graders to community college, submitted 
proposals. After a formal two-step review process in fall 2011, the 
final 15 flight experiments were selected. They all passed a formal 
NASA flight safety review, clearing the final hurdle on their journey 
to launch. 

This is one of many programs that use NASA's science and exploration 
missions to encourage students to pursue a STEM-centric school 
curriculum. Building a robust cadre of scientists and engineers for 
the future is a high priority for NASA's Office of Education. 

The Dragon flight to the International Space Station is the second 
demonstration mission for SpaceX under NASA's Commercial Orbital 
Transportation Services (COTS) program. The demonstration flight is 
intended to lead to regular resupply missions to the space station. 

To learn more about the SSEP, including future opportunities for 
student participation, visit: 


To learn more about NASA's education program, visit: 


To learn more about the International Space Station, visit: 



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