The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) chose an experiment created by Riverside’s own Brenda Shen and Alexa Durand to go to the International Space Station aboard Expedition 52 in June 2017.
The experiment involves comparing the quality of concrete produced under terrestrial gravity to that of concrete produced under the gravity experienced in low-Earth orbit. A small apparatus for concrete production will be sent to the ISS, while an identical apparatus will produce concrete here on Earth. After the experiment is conducted, the two samples of concrete will be analyzed for differences.
The experiment is actually not as complicated as many people think. Shen admits that it was not extremely difficult to create the experiment. “The hardest part was fitting it into our schedules,” said Shen. “She [Durand] works, she has volleyball, she does lots of things. I work, I have a lot of extracurriculars. We’re both really busy people.”
Shen says that they came up with the experiment while touring Heritage Woods. “The entire building is made out of concrete,” said Shen. “We were like, ‘If this school [was made] in space, would it work? Would it be able to support [its] weight?'”
When the completed experiment returns from space, they will use resources provided by Simon Fraser University to analyze the results of the experiment. However, Shen says that both she and Durand will likely be enrolled in post-secondary institutions, possibly not even in the Metro Vancouver area.
Naturally, having an experiment that one created sent into outer space gives one a lot of bragging rights. “It’s a really cool feeling that we get to send something into space. We’re excited to see where it can go,” said Shen. “We hope that in university we will be able to pursue a career that relates to this [experiment], and hopefully one day our small high school experiment will turn into a bigger, grander thing.”
Certainly, everyone hopes that their experiment will be a tremendous success as well.