The Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) is sponsored jointly by the National Science Teacher's Association and NASA. The program gives students in U.S. secondary schools the opportunity to propose experiments for flight on the Space Shuttle. A contest is held every year to select experiments for flight. Each experiment is sponsored by an individual or organization in the private sector.
ARC has been involved in three SSIP life sciences experiments. These were flown on STS-8, STS-10, and STS-29.
The six-day STS-8 mission was launched on August 30, 1983. The performance of the AEM was tested during the flight. The AEM had been built for an SSIP experiment that was to be flown on STS-10, and it had to be tested during space flight to ensure that the experiment's objectives could be achieved.
Six gnotobiotic Lewis Wistar rats were used as test subjects. Because the microbial flora found in the rats were known, the investigator hoped to determine if the AEM was able to contain microorganisms without leaking into the environment outside the AEM. By the same rationale, it was expected that it would be possible to determine whether microbes from the crew had leaked into the AEM and contaminated the rats. Control studies were performed on the ground using identical groups of rats.
Preflight and postflight cultures were made of the bacterial flora found in the animals, the AEM, and the food and water sources. The AEM was shown to be capable of maintaining the rats in good health. Two microorganisms were found in the animals postflight that had not been present preflight. These were presumably introduced by the potatoes that had been provided as a food and water source. An alternative explanation was that the AEM had not been properly sterilized preflight. Since the microorganisms were not found in the exhaust system of the AEM, it was concluded that the AEM was able to maintain biological material in isolation.
The STS-10 SSIP experiment was conducted on an eight-day mission that began on February 3, 1984. Two corporate sponsors were involved in the experiment because of its complex nature. General Dynamics designed and developed the animal housing unit, and Pfizer, Inc., helped the student investigator to define the science aspects of the experiment. The objective of the experiment was to test the hypothesis that development of arthritis has a gravity-related component.
Six rats were used in the flight experiment. Three of the rats were healthy. The other three were injected with complete Freund's adjuvant, which stimulates an arthritic response that has many characteristics in common with human rheumatoid arthritis.
The spread of the disease was less extensive in flight rats than in the ground controls, indicating that lowered gravity conditions may have been beneficial.
The five-day STS-29 mission, which occurred from March 13-18, 1989, flew two SSIP life sciences experiments. Only one of these was developed by ARC. Its objective was to study the effects of weightlessness on the healing of bone fractures. Four specific pathogen-free Long Evans rats with bone fractures were flown inside an AEM. A microgravity rodent bottle provided water for the rats. Tissues from flight rats, ground controls, and tail-suspension controls (simulated microgravity) were examined postflight by light and electron microscopy. Results indicated that healing of fractures is delayed in rats maintained in actual and simulated microgravity.
Move to next section STS Missions After 1990
Bungo, M.W., et. al, eds. Results of the Life Sciences DSOs Conducted Aboard the Space Shuttle 1981-1986. NASA TM-58280, May 1987.
Halstead, T.W. and P.A. Dufour, eds. Biological and Medical Experiments on the Space Shuttle 1981-1985. NASA TM-108025, 1986.
Morey-Holton, E.R., P.D. Sebesta, A.M. Ladwig, J.T. Jackson, and W.M. Knott III. NASA Newsletters for the Weber Student Shuttle Involvement Project. NASA TM-101001, November 1988.
Marshall, G.J., A.I. Fras, M.E. Kirchen, J.R. Sweeney, K.M. O'Connor, and S.J. Stover. Microgravity vs. Weight Bearing vs. Gravity Suspension: Systemic Effects in the Rat. ASGSB Bulletin, vol. 5, no. 1, D-11, October 1991, p. 29.
NASA. Shuttle Student Involvement Project Experiment Integration Plan. JSC-17990, June 1988.
NASA. Launch and Land Your Experiment. Student Guide, NSTA-NASA Space Shuttle Student Involvement Program, unpublished report.