NEW OPPORTUNITY: How to Participate in SSEP on the FINAL FLIGHT OF THE U.S. SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM, Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135)

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education ANNOUNCES AN IMMEDIATE AND HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY for school districts across the U.S. and Canada (grades 5-12), and for community colleges across the U.S., to come aboard the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) for STS-135, the proposed final flight of Shuttle Atlantis—and the final flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle program.

Each participating community will be provided an experiment slot in a microgravity research mini-laboratory flying on Atlantis. An experiment design competition in each community, open to up to 3,200 students, allows student teams to design real experiments vying for their reserved slot on this historic flight. Additional SSEP programming leverages the flight design competition to engage the community, embracing a Learning Community Model for STEM education. This is currently the only SSEP opportunity available.

Assuming a launch of STS-135 no earlier than August 31, 2011, here are some critical elements for the STS-135 opportunity for your community—

1. Students and teachers will have up to 12.5 weeks to get up to speed on the program (we have resources that make this straight-forward), design their experiments, and write and submit their 5-page proposals, with proposals due by May 12, 2011.

2. The deadline for signing a contract is March 15; we stand ready to aggressively help your community: identify funders capable of a short turn-around, talk to funders, and write needed proposals.

3. Communities can begin the program in classrooms as early as February 15, up to a month before contract signing.

4. We offer teleconferences and video-conferences as needed to introduce the program to your key community leadership (e.g., school and district leadership), and to the Local Team of educators that you would charge with carrying out the program. Conference call objectives: provide an overview of the program, tune the program to community need, answer questions, and get everyone on the same page.

For a good background on SSEP, and to introduce the opportunity to key individuals in your community, WATCH THIS SSEP VIDEO at STEMStream TV by Dr. Jeff Goldstein, SSEP Program Director, and Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.

Background on the STS-135 Opportunity

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, which created and operates SSEP, is currently overseeing the SSEP flight opportunity for STS-134, the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour, which is currently scheduled to launch on April 19, 2011. Student experiments have already been selected for this flight from 447 student team proposals, and the flight experiments are now undergoing NASA Flight Safety Review.

Selected Experiments on STS-134
Profiles of the Communities participating in the STS-134 opportunity
SSEP In the News for extensive media coverage of SSEP
In Our Own Words for thoughts on the program from community leaders, teachers, students, and parents

Given the interest in this first SSEP flight opportunity on Shuttle Endeavour, the Center is now announcing a Student Spaceflight Experiments Program opportunity for the final flight of Shuttle Atlantis, and the final flight of the U.S. Shuttle program.

Atlantis will be on the launch pad as a rescue vehicle for the final flight of Endeavour (STS-134). NASA, however, wants to fly Atlantis as STS-135 as an added, final shuttle mission to transport significant provisions to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA would limit the STS-135 crew to four astronauts. If the orbiter experienced a problem precluding its return to Earth, ISS could support the additional 4 astronauts until Soyuz vehicles could arrive for ferrying them back to Earth.

Funding for the additional STS-135 mission was authorized by Congress on September 29, 2010, and the authorization was signed by President Obama. NASA is currently awaiting Congressional allocation of funds for STS-135. On January 20, 2011, NASA formally added STS-135 to its launch schedule. There is now a high probability that STS-135 will indeed fly.

Important Points:

1. The STS-135 opportunity is available to school districts across the U.S. as well as Canada, and to U.S. 2-year community colleges. The Center expects that up to 50 communities will participate, engaging 100,000 grade 5-14 students in this historic adventure.

2. STS-135 will be a 12-day mission, and the SSEP payload is now formally manifested on STS-135.

3. STS-135 is tentatively scheduled for launch on June 28, 2011. NASA, however, is already exploring a late August 2011 launch, see: SPACEPOLICYONLINE.COM

4. For SSEP to proceed, we need to ensure that student teams can submit proposals before the end of the school year. We are therefore requiring a proposal submission deadline of May 12, 2011. By the end of May, we will have selected the flight experiments, and provided NASA the list of fluids and solids to be flown by the student teams. This list allows NASA to conduct a flight safety review. This list also needs to be submitted to NASA 3 months in advance of launch. We therefore need NASA to slip the launch date from June 28, 2011 until at least August 31, 2011. We fully expect this to occur given the significant launch slips that have occurred for STS-133 and STS-134, and the conversations already taking place in NASA.

5. We created a bulleted list of powerful talking points you can call upon when talking to a potential funder.

6. We created a proposal template with straight-forward sections that address your community’s demographics and strategic needs in STEM education. The template allows a proposal to be written and submitted to funders with no more than a 2-3 hour investment of time.

7. We have access to databases of funders on a regional and local level. We can do a search for you, or walk you through database operation.

8. SSEP on STS-135 has a Critical Timeline, which is a formal schedule with milestone dates.


Note that we have limited experiment slots available for STS-135, and we urge interested school districts and community colleges to call or email, ASAP, Dr. Jeff Goldstein, SSEP Program Director, and Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. Contact information may be found on the Contact page. Jeff will set up a phone call with you to see how this program might be tailored to fit the STEM education needs of your community, and how we can help get you aboard.

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After reading this post, make sure to read the newly revised SSEP Home page and About SSEP page.

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One Response to NEW OPPORTUNITY: How to Participate in SSEP on the FINAL FLIGHT OF THE U.S. SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM, Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135)

  1. Dr. Gary Munn January 21, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    A most welcome announcement, Jeff!! I will do my best to get the word out to Canada. Thank you for thinking of us!!!

    Dr. Gary R. Munn

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.