New STEM Ed Student Experiments Opp. on Intl Space Station for 2012-13

Announcing the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Fifth Flight Opportunity - SSEP Mission 3 to the International Space Station for the 2012-13 Academic Year

Opportunity for Schools and Districts to Engage Their Grade 5-12 Students in Real Microgravity Experiment Design for Flight to the International Space Station

We Are Truly Inviting Your Students and Community to Be Part of America's Space Program

We are trying to provide enough advance notice for the Mission 3 opportunity so that schools and districts can assess interest with their staff and, if appropriate, move forward with an Implementation Plan before summer break.

Milestone dates:
8-Week Experiment Design Phase: September 17 to November 9, 2012 Selection of Flight Experiments: December 7, 2012 Ferry Flight to ISS: early-April 2013 Ferry Flight Return to Earth: mid-May 2013 National Conference in Washington, DC: early July 2013

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, in partnership with NanoRacks, invites communities across the U.S. to participate in SSEP Mission 3 to ISS.

SSEP immerses a community of students in real scientific research of their own design, using a highly captivating spaceflight opportunity on the International Space Station (ISS) - Americas newest National Laboratory, and which will garner the community significant media attention for STEM education.

Each participating community will be provided all launch services to fly a real microgravity research mini-laboratory on ISS from early April to mid-May 2013, and a kit for assembly and loading of their mini-lab.

An 8-week experiment design competition in your community, held Fall 2012, will allow grade 5-12 student teams to design real microgravity experiments vying for the communitys reserved mini-lab slot on ISS. Your student teams write very real but grade level appropriate research proposals, go through a formal proposal review process, and one experiment is selected to fly for your community. This is a true science immersion program where students are asked to be real scientists and go through the exact same process as professional researchers vying for research resources and research opportunities.

Two NASA feature articles on the SSEP program at NASA.gov appeared on the International Space Station RESEARCH page, not education page. NASA considers these students TO BE RESEARCHERS. The program is changing the way students view both science and their ability to do science. It is also changing the way teachers teach science.

The pedagogical approach for the program embraces student ownership in learning, a recognition that we humans are born to explore, and that science is really just organized curiosity married to evidence-based learning. The power of this pedagogical approach is reflected in a 3-minute music video made from my Keynote Address to 6,000 teachers at the National Science Teachers Association National Conference in 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haUj3qUncOs

SSEP is a true STEM education program. It addresses a wide range of biological and physical science disciplines (thus appropriate for all teachers of science), including: seed germination, crystal growth, physiology of microorganisms and life cycles (e.g. bacteria), cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life. Students design experiments to the technology and engineering constraints imposed by a real research mini-lab and flight operations to and from Earth orbit.

SSEP has had 4 flight opportunities to date:

  • Through SSEP on the final two flights of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program (STS-134 and STS-135), 977 student team proposals were received, and 27 experiments have flown - one for each of the participating communities (16 on STS-134 and 11 on STS-135).
  • The third SSEP flight opportunity, Mission 1 to ISS, includes 12 participating communities. A total of 779 student team proposals were received, and 15 selected for flight. The Aquarius payload of SSEP Mission 1 experiments is scheduled to fly to ISS on May 7, 2012 aboard SpaceX Dragon - the first commercial spacecraft to dock with ISS, heralding in a new era in human spaceflight. Student flight teams will be at Kennedy Space Center for the launch and will be interviewed on NASA TV.
  • The fourth SSEP flight opportunity, Mission 2 to ISS, began on March 5, 2012 with 11 participating communities. The Antares payload of SSEP Mission 2 experiments is slated to fly to ISS in Fall 2012.

    The initiative was also recently highlighted at the 2nd Annual White House Science Fair event.


  1. Typically a minimum of 300 grade 5-12 students across a community engage in experiment design. The school district is free to determine the participating grade levels. SSEP is not designed for a single class or a small number of students. A team of science teachers partnering across a school or a district is a recipe for success.
  2. Implementation is straightforward and well defined; all needed curricular materials are fully developed; and we provide ongoing, proactive support for your educator implementation team.
  3. Well-designed content resources for teachers and students support foundational instruction on science in microgravity and experimental design.
  4. SSEP is flexible enough to be tailored to your community's strategic needs in STEM education.
  5. A suite of SSEP program elements - the Community Program - leverages the flight experiment design competition to engage the entire community, embracing a Learning Community Model for STEM education. Elements include flying up to 2 Mission Patches resulting from an art and design competition across your community, and a SSEP Community Blog for each community.
  6. Students can take part in their own research conference where they can report on experiment design and results. The conference is normally held in Washington, DC, in early July, at the Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum, the site of the 2011 and 2012 conference the most visited Museum on the planet.

SSEP is about a commitment to the joys of learning; to student ownership in exploration through immersive and REAL science experiences; to science as journey; to rich experiences for teachers in real science; and to science as an interdisciplinary tapestry that extends to vital written and oral communication skills.

All participating communities must be aboard by September 12, 2012, requiring submission of an Implementation Plan well in advance of program start in a community. The Center needs to begin working with interested communities as soon as possible.


  1. CAREFULLY review the National Announcement of Opportunity (link below), which includes links to all aspects of the program, including program operations, how to participate, profiles of the 40 communities participating to date, summaries of all selected flight experiments, media coverage, and program testimonials from community leadership.
  2. Contact us via the link below, or call me directly at: 301-395-0770
    GO TO NATIONAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF OPPORTUNITY: http://ssep.ncesse.org/?p=9708

Be part of history by making history
Dr. Jeff Goldstein, Center Director and SSEP Program Creator
Cell: 301-395-0770
National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) http://ncesse.org PO Box 3806 Capitol Heights, Maryland 20791

National Center for Earth and Space Science Education NanoRacks, LLC Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

This on-orbit, real research opportunity for students is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.