4-H Space Science Project
Shuttle Liftoff (Photo courtesy of NASA)
THE SKY IS NO LONGER OUR LIMIT could be the motto for Country Centre 4-H Club's Space Science Project. We began this adventure in 1999 with the information that we could work directly with NASA in a special student program. We learned all we could about space flight, lift and thrust, flight gear, and other important information. We took two simulated flights with the Challenger Learning Center in Sacramento learning about the kinds of experiments and work that takes place in the shuttles and on the space station.
We submitted our proposed experiments that would be in the cargo bay of the Shuttle Discovery STS-102. With approval from NASA, we began preflight experiments on seeds (tomato, sunflower, corn, radish), film, adhesives, and yeast. Each item was weighed and measured. The data would be kept until our experiments returned to earth and re-tested for comparison. We had several months to get ready for our launch. Our experiments were packed into a container, and shipped to NASA where they would be packed into a SEM (Space Experiment Module), which would be secured into the cargo bay during the flight and while the shuttle was docked at the space station.
Because of high interest from our community and some very creative fundraising, all of our project members were able to go to Washington, D.C., to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and tour the Capitol before going to Florida to watch a perfect sunrise launch of Discovery STS-102. We were also thrilled to have a private tour of Kennedy Space Center, where we went into the OPV (Orbiter Processing Facility) Building, which is essentially a huge hangar where technicians can check over every inch of the shuttle between missions. We walked RIGHT under the Columbia, which sadly was lost just a few months ago.
After our return to Sacramento, we waited for our experiments to be sent back to us. We arranged for our yeast to be baked in a local bakery, a local film processing plant would process our space film, our State College lab would test our adhesives and Fairytale Town, our children's park gave us space to grow our space seeds so we could share with the community. We have months of work to do on our experiments which gave us results we did not expect. Some of our data had not been collected correctly so our best learning came from sleuthing out what we did wrong!
We still work closely with NASA, using their curriculum for electronics and how they relate to space science.