Like many Americans, some eighth- and ninth-grade day school students from Livingston, N.J., will be eagerly following next week’s launch of a Space X rocket and experiments later this year on the International Space Station.
Their interest is very academic.
The 18 students, at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, are participants in the Ramon Foundation Space Lab project, which develops experiments to be performed in space by NASA astronauts.
The Kushner schools are the first ones in the United States to take part in the project, along with several in Israel; the Ramon Foundation is named for Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in the explosion of the Columbia shuttle in 2003, and for his son, Asaf, who died in an Israeli Air Force training accident in 2009.
The students’ experiment, developed over a year of weekly meetings, investigate the effect of a zero-gravity atmosphere on the speed of decomposition during composting, and on the properties of bacteria in space.
They sent their project to NASA earlier this month; they’ll watch the May 6 rocket launch on NASA TV and follow their experiment’s progress on the NASA website. Back at school, they’ll conduct parallel, control experiments to track decomposition in an earth-gravity environment.
“This experience has empowered our students, taught them teamwork alongside critical thinking skills,” said Debbie Finkelstein, Middle School principal. “I am so pleased that the Ramon space project has sparked the interest of our eighth and ninth grade girls in an equal ratio to the boys. The girls were especially attracted to this initiative because of the personal connection they were able to make to Ilan Ramon and the opportunity to design and build an experiment that an astronaut will actually perform onboard the International Space Station.”