DC Conference

Our student researchers presented their experience at the first ever SSEP Conference at the Smithsonian Institute National Air and Space Museum in early July. This is the power point presentation they shared.

SSEP Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

SSEP Conference at the Smithsonian Institute National Air and Space Museum

Our student researchers Josie Smith and Celeste Brown

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Thanks to the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University for the hour of beam time! During this time we were able to examine about half of the samples sent. This was better than we’d anticipated!

Dr. Gouaux and Ryan (at computer) get Josie set up to run the diffraction analysis. Josie's dad observes.

The blue square shows the alignment of the crystal loop. The crystal must be properly aligned in order for the x-ray beams to diffract at the correct location.

Celeste, Josie and their dads examine a diffraction pattern.

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Ground Truths

Another trip to the lab allowed us to collect and preserve crystals from the ground truth experiment grown in the mock MDA.

Dr, Gouaux collects a crystal sample from the control crystals grown in the lab.

Josie prepares the cryogenic preservative. After pulling the crystals out of the solution, they are passed through this preservative to keep them from icing up when they are placed in the liquid nitrogen.

Josie collects a ground truth crystal.

A sample of the selected crystals are packaged and sent to Stanford for diffraction analysis.

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Materials Return!

After a 16 day journey orbiting the earth at 14,500 mph, and a few days with FedEx, our materials were returned and we got out first looks at Dr. Gouaux’s lab.

The return box next to the mock MDA

Josie and Celeste are super excited to open the box.

The Vial!

Dr. Gouaux preps the microscope.

Celeste collects a crystal sample for diffraction analysis.

Following Dr. Gouaux's technique, Josie collects a crystal sample.

The samples from flight are preserved in liquid nitrogen.

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Launch: May 16, 2011

After a scrub on April 29, Endeavour launched into partly cloudy skies carrying our small vials of lysozyme/ citrate buffer and salt solution on Monday morning, May 16. Early in the day on the 17th the experiment was activated. This means that the two vials were brought into alignment, allowing the lysozyme/ citrate buffer to interact with the salt solution. We hope some protein crystals grow over the course of the 16 day flight!

Here’s a cool look at the launch!

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Scrubbed… April 29th Launch Attempt

We’d all met up in the parking lot in Merritt Island, Florida, met up with SSEP communities from across the country, put a face to Dr. Goldstein, caravanned out to the Kars Park viewing site and staked out our launch viewing territory when the launch attempt was scrubbed. Continuing to make history, this was the first time the astronaut crew traveling in the silver Airstream was turned around on their way to the launch pad and sent back to the Kennedy Space Center Crew Quarters. As the day went on, it became apparent that the repair would take more than a day or two.

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Flight Delay!!!

With 16 days left in our countdown NASA announced a ten day flight delay. Our materials are all measured out, packaged up and ready to go. We’ll hang on to them until the new materials submission date of April 19.


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Flight Concentrations Determined

After review of crystals grown so far, Celeste and Josie have selected a 2:1 ratio of lysozyme protein to citrate buffer. This means that in the 125mL of Well A there will be — ml/mg lysozyme protein and === ml citrate buffer (pH 4.0). Well A will also contain a 0.3 x 0.3 square of cotton. In microgravity materials do not mix as they do on earth and it is the hope of the girls that the cotton will act as a wicking agent between Well A and Well B. Well B will contain 12ml NaCl solution.

These materials have been packaged for flight! With each small step the flight experiment is becoming reality!


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Learning to Grow Protein Crystals

Enter Dr. Eric Gouaux of OHSU. Dr. Gouaux received the donated lysozyme, and he donated the other materials for the project. Dr. Gouaux has come to Jackson several times to coach us along in the lysozyme crystal growing process. Josie and Celeste have the procedure for the drop method of growing crystals down pat. At Dr. Gouaux’s lab we had the opportunity to look at lysozyme crystals through a polarizing lens. Polarization is one way to determine that what you’re looking at is actually crystalline.

This picture of lysozyme crystals was taken using Celeste’s cool digital microscope!


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Materials Crisis!

It turns out urokinase is really expensive and hard to get. Josie and Celeste make an early morning call and find this out. Thanks so much to the folks at Sigma-Aldrich for taking on the task of finding an affordable alternate, lysozyme, in the spirit of the original experiment! Not only did Sigma-Aldrich suggest lysozyme – they donated some for our effort. Thank you very much Sigma-Aldrich!

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