Scientific Return and Reporting – SSEP on STS-135

This page provides a video archive of presentations at the annual SSEP National Conference by student researchers whose experiments were part of the SSEP Intrepid experiments payload aboard STS-135 – the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis, and the final flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. This was the second flight opportunity for SSEP.

STS-135 launched at 11:29 am ET, July 8, 2011, and returned to Earth at 5:57 am ET, July 21, 2011. For details on the flight profile for Intrepid, see the SSEP on STS-135: Final Flight of Shuttle Atlantis page.

Some student flight teams present at more than one annual conference, reporting out status at various stages of the life cycle of a flight experiment. It is also true that not all student flight teams attend a conference. For details on all Intrepid flight experiments, see the Selected Experiments on STS-135 page.


Ida County, Iowa

Title: How does Microgravity affect the maximum cell size of Tardigrades?
Oral Presentation, 2nd Annual SSEP National Conference, July 2012
Ridge View High School
Grade levels of Team: 9 – 12

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, SSEP on STS-135

Co-Principal Investigators: Dana Hustedt and Gretchen Kistenmacher
Co-Investigators: Isaac Jepsen, Taylor Radke, Austin Hayden, Michael Perrett, and Jacob Biddle
Teacher Facilitators: Patty Wheeler and Art Witten

Abstract: The purpose of this experiment was to see how microgravity would affect the cell size of tardigrades, commonly referred to as “water bears”. We will do this by sending up a group of tardigrades and sufficient food supply for them to feast upon. We hope to detect any significant growth difference between the microgravity specimens and earth bound specimens. Any cell size difference would support the idea of microgravity having some effect on the cells.


Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Title: The Growth Rate of Lactobacillus acidophilus in Microgravity
Oral Presentation, 2nd Annual SSEP National Conference, July 2012
Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School District
Grade level: 11

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, SSEP on STS-135

Co-principal Investigators: Victoria Holbert, Leighton Noel, Kayla Nolette, and Miguel Velez
Teacher Facilitator: Paula.deDiego

Abstract: Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria is one of the main causes of tooth decay. The bacteria combine with proteins in the oral cavity to form plaque. The bacteria excrete lactic acid which dissolve the calcium and enamel on the teeth in the mouth. This process results in tooth decay.

We tested the growth rate of Lactobacillus acidophilus and determined whether they have an accelerated reproduction rate in microgravity. Analysis implies the growth rate is faster in microgravity.


Bridgewater-Raritan, New Jersey

Title: Effect of Microgravity on Osteoblast Specialization and Bone Growth
Oral Presentation, 2nd Annual SSEP National Conference, July 2012
Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District
Grade levels of Team: 11-12

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, SSEP on STS-135

Co-Principal Investigators: 
Joseph Avenoso, Adam Elwood, and Alex Belly
Co-Investigators: Rotem Herzberg, Gage Cane-Wissing, and Tejas Patel
Collaborators: Dr. Chris Fritton, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Jorge L. Valdes

Abstract: Bridgewater-Raritan School District students investigated a possible solution to bone loss in space. The experiment consists of using human growth hormone to help grow mouse osteoblasts in DMEM, a type of agar solution. Students collaborated with scientists from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ and found that upon return to earth several bone cells could be resuscitated with oxygen and fresh nutrients. These results are consistent with previous experiments conducted by NASA.


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.