Nanaimo science student’s experiment on its way to International Space Station


WATCH: Grade 11 students from Nanaimo District Secondary School were at the Kennedy Space Station in Florida Friday morning to watch the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket take their muscle atrophy experiment into space.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida early Friday morning.

It will dock at the International Space Station on Monday and when it doe,  part of the payload to be left there is an experiment done by three Nanaimo Grade 11 high school students.

Megan Poteryko, Parker Davie and Abigail Sitler were at Cape Canaveral to watch it head off into space.

“The launch was really amazing to see,” said Sitler. “None of us actually expected our experiment to win and to see it launch into space was a pretty surreal experience.”

Theirs was one of 31 experiments chosen from nearly 1,500 entries.

It all began about eight months ago when students around the world were asked to submit ideas for science experiments in space.

The NDSS students thought muscle atrophy would be interesting and pertinent.

“In a space flight of just five to ten days astronauts lose 20 per cent of their muscle mass,” explained Megan Poteryko.

With the help of teachers like Mary Anne Perkins, they settled on tiny planarian flatworms to do the job.

“What they have in the first tube are plenaria, they’re small little flat worms, there’s six of them in here,” said Perkins. “In the second tube they’re the same worms but they’ve been injected with a supplement to maintain muscle mass, L’Carnitine. It’s been used here for people and now they’re wondering if it will prevent muscle loss in space.”

“We previously weighed them before so we can weigh them again and what we’re hoping to see is the ones that were untreated they’ll have less of the muscle mass because obviously, they have muscle atrophy.” said Poteryko.

How could an opportunity like this not increase a student’s interest in science?

“The project has definitely helped me know that I want to go into the sciences,” said Davie.

The students hope to present their findings at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. next year.

It cost roughly $22,000 to send their experiment into space.

Funding for the opportunity was provided by community sponsors and donors including Island Savings Credit Union, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, BC Hydro, Magellan Aerospace and the Blue Moon Fund.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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