A team of students from Tonbridge School, Kent, and Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School have won the Mission Discovery competition, run by the International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET), to design a scientific experiment which will be conducted in space. The winning team included sixth-formers Thomas Stack, Godwyn Lai and Edward Barry, all from Tonbridge School, and Sarah Prescott and Abigail Colley, both from Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School.
The winning team carried out an investigation into whether yeast (specifically, the saccharomyces cerevisiae species of yeast) can successfully sexually reproduce under the stress of microgravity. On Monday 2 March, the experiment will be placed aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and conducted during NASA’s SpaceX CRS-20 Mission on the International Space Station. In recent weeks it has been built by scientists led by Dr Julie Keeble, ISSET’s Chief Scientist and Senior Lecturer of Pharmacology at King’s College London.
Seven experiments that have been devised by young people from around the world will be on the International Space Station and will be carried out by astronauts posted there. ‘Knowing that something I directly contributed to will be put in space is an incredible feeling,’ said Edward Berry, one of Tonbridge’s winners. ‘Teamwork was the key to succeeding, with such time pressure, each teammate was invaluable, from the brainstorm to the final presentation.’
‘It’s hard to imagine a more exciting prize for students than to see their experiment being flown into space and carried out by NASA astronauts,’ added James Priory, headmaster of Tonbridge School. ‘Mission Discovery was a fun and inspiring event for everyone who took part, and one which put education and innovation centre stage.’
In March 2019, Tonbridge became the first UK school to host Mission Discovery. Students from various schools took part in the event, giving them the opportunity to work with NASA astronauts and renowned scientists as they created ideas for experiments that could be carried out in space. Leading Mission Discovery at Tonbridge were NASA astronauts Dr Michael Foale CBE, the first British-born NASA astronaut, and Dr Steve Swanson. Both are former International Space Station commanders.
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