Ayrshire pupils’ experiment launches into space

Michael Foale CBE with participants at last year's event.
Michael Foale CBE with participants at last year's event.

A space experiment designed by Ayrshire pupils and college students is to launch to the International Space Station today (Thursday 1 June).

The winning experiment of Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016 will journey on the SpaceX CRS-11 at 21:55 GMT along with five other experiments.

The winning team with Michael Foale CBE, Sarah Murray and Chris Barber.

The winning team with Michael Foale CBE, Sarah Murray and Chris Barber.

Mission Discovery is a week-long space school delivered by the International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET). The hugely successful space programme took place in Ayrshire for the first time last year at Ayrshire College’s Ayr Campus, and is set to return in three weeks’ time at the College’s Kilmarnock Campus.

Last year’s programme saw 150 pupils from East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire secondary schools and 50 Ayrshire College pupils work in teams alongside NASA experts to design space experiments.

Participants were aware that the winning idea would travel to the International Space Station at some point in 2017, where it would be carried out by a team of astronauts.

Team 14, made up of James Abbott, Pip Abramson, Laura Borthwick, Dylan Goldie, Robyn McMahon, Jas McNee, Lynne Mitchell, Ania Myskowska, triumphed!

The time has now arrived, and the experiment - which looks at the growth of slime mold across various surfaces (rubber/aluminium/velcro/plastic) in microgravity - will be tested alongside experiments from Mission Discovery winners at Renfrewshire, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydvil and King’s College London.

The team behind the Ayrshire experiment described their idea as follows: “Micro-organisms flourish on the International Space Station, but we do not yet know how surface materials affect their growth.

“This experiment will use slime mold, a species that we have previously grown in Space, and see how well it grows across different surface materials in Space.

“All of the materials being used exist on the Space Station and the experiment will therefore give information about how these surfaces encourage the growth of micro-organisms.”

The experiment’s launch to the International Space Station is hugely exciting news in the countdown to Mission Discovery 2017 - which starts on Monday 19 June.

The 2017 programme is chiefly sponsored by the Ayrshire College Foundation, with further sponsorship from NATS, the Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport and the Ayr Rotary Club.

Former NASA astronaut Michael Foale CBE, who was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame last month, will land in Ayrshire for the second consecutive year to guide the participants of Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2017 through their week-long programme.

The winning team from this year’s programme will have their experiment launch into space in 2018.

Gavin Murray, Director of STEM at Ayrshire College, said “We are all extremely excited to learn of the first Mission Discovery Ayrshire experiment’s trip to the International Space Station on Thursday.

“Participants of the Mission Discovery programme are given a tremendous opportunity to work together to send an idea into space, and last year’s team should be very proud of their achievement. I’m sure this will inspire the 200 young people of Ayrshire who are set to take part in the 2017 Mission Discovery Ayrshire programme this summer.”