Students in schools worldwide from first grade to
undergraduates are anticipating with excitement the next
space shuttle mission, scheduled for launch Thursday, as
their experiments venture into space.

The Space Shuttle Small Payloads Project (SSPP), based at the
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and Wallops
Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., is providing flight
opportunities for nearly 40 experiments designed to engage
students in space and scientific exploration.

“Providing students the experience of being scientific
investigators using the microgravity environment provided by
the space shuttle reinforces their understanding of science,
mathematics and technology,” said Frank Owens, Director,
Education Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington. “And it is
this learning experience that can spark an interest and lead
them toward a career in science or engineering.”

The most noticeable of the educational experiments on STS-108
is the Student Tracked Atmospheric Research Satellite for
Heuristic International Networking Experiment (STARSHINE-2).
STARSHINE is an education program for students around the
world to help construct a satellite and learn about satellite
orbits and natural events that affect these orbits.

To be deployed after the shuttle undocks from the
International Space Station, the beach ball-size satellite is
covered with nearly 900 aluminum mirrors that have been
polished by nearly 25,000 students around the world. The
satellite should be visible from Earth with the naked eye.

Through the six-month lifetime of the satellite, students
will be able to track its position, visually observe it at
twilight hours, calculate orbits, measure changes in the
orbit and observe the effect of solar activity on the orbit.

Rocky Mountain NASA Space Grant Consortium, Salt Lake City,
is sponsoring the project, the third in the STARSHINE series.
The first was deployed during a 1999 shuttle mission and the
second was launched from Alaska in September 2001.

Three organizations — Utah State University, Logan;
Pennsylvania State University, State College; and the
Argentine Association of Space Technology, Argentina — are
flying Get-Away-Special canisters that include experiments
that engage area students in space research. These
experiments include the development of a low-cost and
reusable plant-growth chamber; examination of the effects of
the space environment on crystal growth, popcorn and seeds;
and a water purification process.

NASA also will fly three Space Experiment Module (SEM)
payloads carrying 30 experiments designed by students from
throughout the United States, Argentina, Morocco and
Portugal, and Australia. In addition, STS-108 will mark the
fifth anniversary of the flight of the first SEM on STS-80 in
November 1996.

Three of these experiments were developed by high school
students in Maryland, Illinois and Washington and were
selected for flight through the NASA Student Involvement
Program. These experiments will study the affect of
microgravity on brine shrimp and their use as a food source
for fish during long-duration space missions; examine three-
dimensional resonance modes in microgravity and the
relationship to structures made for the microgravity
environment; and research how electrical currents flow in the
space environment.

Another experiment will bridge generations as students from
New Oxford Elementary School have teamed with residents at
the Brethren Home Retirement Community, both in Hanover, Pa.
The groups will examine how the space environment affects the
growth of soy seeds.

In addition to the educational experiments, a number of other
experiments will be flown that include examining smoldering
combustion in microgravity, testing prototype instrument
coolers for space flight and investigating planetary dust

A complete list and descriptions of SSPP experiments on STS-
108 can be found at: