15 Sep 2014
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Students' Silly Putty Experiment Goes to Space

The kids want to know if Silly Putty manufactured in near-zero-gravity has a different physical structure than Silly Putty mixed together on Earth. The project is in the Hawthorne-made rocket and craft launched at NASA's Cape Canaveral.

Students' Silly Putty Experiment Goes to Space

An experiment designed by students from Lincoln Middle School and Santa Monica High School was among the Hawthorne-built rocket and spaceship launched from Cape Canaveral Sunday night.

The science project is one of 11 student research projects carried aloft by a Falcon spaceship and Dragon launcher, both built in the South Bay by Space Exploration Co. The rocket and craft was sent skyward about 5:35 p.m. PDT.

"What Is The Effect of Microgravity On The Formation of Silly Putty And How Do The Characteristics of That Silly Putty Differ From Silly Putty Made On Earth?" is the formal description of the science project.

The interest is not merely playful, as the ISS crew will mix up a batch of Silly Putty in microgravity to measure how a "non-Newtonian dilatant fluid" behaves differently from a mix on Earth.

To get their experiment in space, the students participated in a local Flight Experiment Design Competition that included more than 300 competitors and was hosted by the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

The winning team is comprised of principal investigator Cindy Yen, along with fellow students Francis Abastillas, Dean Chien, Matilda Loughmiller, Alex Soohoo, Roman Valentine and Jane Cho Watts.

Lincoln Middle School science teachers Marianna O'Brien and Carol Wrabel made the announcement that the team had been selected during a school board meeting in September. Wrabel passed around a heat shield replacement piece from the Endeavour spacecraft that had been donated to the school.

O'Brien told the board she and Wrabel want to see a committee "for as long as Curiousity is on Mars" to grow science, technology, engineering, and math fields in middle and elementary schools throughout the district.

Sunday's launch was the first payload-carrying commercial flight planned to link with a manned spacecraft, the International Space Station. The privately-built rocket is one of two intended to replace the retired fleet of Space Shuttles, one of which is due to creep across Los Angeles starting next Friday.

Among the items on the craft are freezers for scientific specimens to be sent back to Earth. Dragon is carrying 734 pounds of scientific material that will be used Russian launch center in Asia.

The spaceship will return with almost twice as many objects as are going up this time. Extra space in the freezers has been loaded with ice cream for the astronauts, cosmonauts and other space explorers onboard the International Space Station.
On Wednesday, Dragon will approach the ISS. NASA Cmdr. Sunita Williams and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will use the Canadian- built grappler arm to move the ship to the ISS.

It will be the first time an American supply vessel other than a Space Shuttle has docked there.

Once unloaded and reloaded, Dragon will be guided to a splashdown 250 miles off the Southern California coast late this month.

When the silly putty experiment returns to Earth, school board member Ralph Mechor told O'Brien and Wrabel that the school board would like to see the results.

— Devin Kelly contributed to this report.

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