CU-Boulder Alumna Rockets Into Space With Student Experiments

Published: Jan. 16, 2003

A University of Colorado at Boulder alumna was successfully launched into orbit Jan. 16 aboard the space shuttle Columbia, where she'll spend two weeks in space operating student projects that were built and tested at CU-Boulder.

CU-Boulder aerospace engineering graduate Kalpana Chawla, who is making her second space shuttle flight, is among the seven-person flight crew. Chawla received her doctorate from CU-Boulder in 1988 and flew on Columbia in 1997. She is one of 15 alumni of CU-Boulder who have flown in space.

Chawla will set up and run a variety of experiments designed by schoolchildren from around the world. In April, 30 students from Australia, China, Israel, Japan, Lichtenstein and the United States worked at CU-Boulder's BioServe Space Technologies Center to conduct simulation tests of the experiments.

BioServe was founded in 1987, and is headquartered in the engineering college's aerospace engineering sciences department with the goal of supporting the commercialization of space.

Spiders, carpenter bees, ants, silkworm larvae and medaka fish made the trip up into orbit on the shuttle in specially designed student experiment containers. The effects of microgravity on the insects and fish will be studied.

The student experiments are sponsored by SPACEHAB, a private corporation headquartered in Washington, D.C. SPACEHAB develops, owns and operates commercial spaceflight equipment, including lab modules and cargo carriers for use in orbit.

The hardware for the Columbia student experiments was built by BioServe engineers, who have designed instruments and flown payloads on 23 launches, including 17 space shuttle missions, three international space station missions and two of Russia's Mir space station missions.

"SPACEHAB has had outstanding success with this project as well as other space efforts," said BioServe business development manager Stefanie Countryman. "BioServe, with its long-standing history of supporting education and expertise in life science spaceflight hardware design, is pleased to be a part of this unique project."

Known as the Space Technology and Research Students, or STARS, the SPACEHAB project ultimately will involve thousands of students from around the world who will be monitoring the experiments located in the shuttle's SPACEHAB module via the Internet.