McAllen ISD Students had their science experiment launched into space

Grade 11
IB at Lamar Academy, McAllen Independent School District
Co-Principal Investigators: Sabrina Benitez, Sofia Escobar, Juan Pablo Flanagan
Advisors: Marc Braden, Dr. Anxiu Kuang, Dr. Michael Wayne Persans
Teacher Facilitator: Laura Nikstad

Proposal Summary: One of NASA’s many current projects, and one the general public has been waiting for ever since we set foot on the Moon, is the human mission to Mars. The recent discovery of liquid water on Mars has increased our anticipation of this dream; however, along with water, it has been found that Martian soil contains high levels of magnesium perchlorate—a contaminant toxic to humans. Analyzing the results of the experiment will provide insight into the effects of perchlorate, combined with microgravity, and how these unfamiliar conditions will affect the possibilities of ever establishing a sustainable colony on Mars. Future manned missions to Mars are in the works and questions about nutrition and sustainability must be answered. This experiment will give us a greater understanding of food growth on Mars, a planet with a significantly smaller amount of gravity than Earth. On the ISS, our Type 3 FME mini-lab will contain Martian simulated soil with tomato seeds and distilled water to catalyze the germination. After twelve days, a solution of 10% Neutral Buffered Formalin will be added to the soil in order to halt the growth and “freeze” any viable data so that we may be able to observe the tomato sprout on Earth and compare the results to the control groups in order to find how plants that have evolved to fit Earth’s conditions will grow and survive in conditions very different from our own.