Israeli 9th graders conduct ground-breaking experiment in space

The 14-year-old pupils -- all girls -- wanted to know how low gravity conditions in space influence the development of brine shrimp eggs compared to the Earth environment.

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December 7, 2014 16:42
3 minute read.
9th grade girls

9th grade girls who made an experiement in space. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The International Space Station has in the last few days conducted an experiment devised by four ninth-grade pupils at the Darca New High School in Bat Yam.

The 14-year-old pupils – all girls – wanted to know how low gravity conditions in space influence the development of brine shrimp eggs, compared to the influence of the Earth’s environment.

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The Bat Yam girls – Alice, Yanna, Daria and Jenia – attend one of 23 schools in the Darca Network, which was founded by the Rashi Foundation in partnership with Alliance-KIAH and the YRF organization. The experiment was made possible thanks to the Ramon Foundation, established in memory of the late Israeli astronaut Col.

Ilan Ramon, with the support of Darca Schools and the Bat Yam Municipality.

Earlier this year, the experimental equipment was launched with US astronauts taking turns serving on the space station. The high school girls had prepared a special test tube with a divider between the brine shrimp eggs on the one side and salt water and oxygen – required for the eggs’ growth – on the other. When the payload arrived, the astronauts carefully removed the partition according to the pupils’ instructions and connected the two parts of the test tube.

The girls conducted the same experiment on a test tube in their school. The double test was meant to test the feasibility of development of living organisms in outer space in low-gravity conditions.

The space-bound test landed back on Earth and was returned to the pupils last week. Together with their biology teacher, Ilana Chanani, the girls compared the results of the experiment at the space station with their the results of the experiment conducted concurrently in Israel. They noted that the eggs developed and multiplied slower under low-gravity conditions in outer space than on land. In a festive event at the Bat Yam school last week, the astronaut’s widow, Rona Ramon, and Esther Piron, the head of municipality’s education department, awarded the young researchers with a certificate of merit following their presentation of the science project.

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After the results of the experiment were recorded and compared, scientists around the world lauded the findings and gave it international recognition.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, whose astronauts participated, acknowledged the experiment on its official website along with leading outer space research performed in the past year.

Chanani, a biology teacher for 22 years who coordinates science studies and is principal of the intermediate school, explained the implications of the discovery: “Currently, with the help of this fascinating experiment, these findings are likely to constitute an opening to far-reaching discoveries in the world of medicine and development of living creatures as a source for food in outer space,” said Chanani. “The results are likely to assist in the field of growing bacteria for the purpose of manufacturing insulin for diabetics around the world. It will be possible to grow these things in outer space and benefit from reduction in costs of caring for the sick,” she added.

The Ramon Foundation, following a rigorous competitive procedure whose goal was to find the most valuable experiment to represent Israel, chose Darca-Bat Yam out of more than 50 high schools around the country. The four teenage girls were selected out of hundreds of others because their experiment was creative, innovative and had the potential for continued scientific experimentation.

Dr. Gil Pereg, CEO of Darca Schools, concluded that “the fact that this experiment, which originated within the walls of our school, made its way to outer space and has the power to influence all of our lives in the future is inspiring. Darca Schools, in collaboration with the Bat Yam Municipality and Ramon Foundation, will continue investing in excellence and knowledge-based resources in order to advance education in Israel.”

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