by Tanisha Mehta and Emma Li

This article was written by eleventh grade student Emma Li and twelfth grade student Tanisha Mehta.

On July 10, 2021, the SpaceX Dragon CRS-22 returned from the International Space Station (ISS), and with it came the 2020–21 SpaceLab team experiment. And while the team was eager to open the experiment up and analyze the results, they had to wait until it was shipped to Singapore. In the meantime, they were able to analyze the photos that were taken throughout the experiment for both the ground and flight units. Unfortunately, for the ground unit, only photos for the first week were available since Singapore American School, the location of the incubator where the unit was running, had to temporarily shut down all power, terminating the experiment. The team was still able to make observations on the initial stages of the experiment, and for SAS, this was one of the first times there were quality images, so they drew conclusions based on those findings. 

Flight unit

Ground unit

There were two main observations that were made: how bubbles formed in the capsule and how brine shrimp dispersed. First, they observed the bubbles and found that in the ground unit, they stuck to the divider in the capsule, shifting up and down along that axis while the bubbles in the flight unit stayed in one spot throughout the 30 days, suspended in the middle. All of these results can be attributed to the unique properties of water when in microgravity. Water is more “sticky” in space since gravity cannot interfere with the adhesion of water to surfaces. Furthermore, both the weight and buoyancy force that affects the movement of objects in a fluid are related to the gravitational constant which is absent in a microgravity environment. 

When analyzing the brine shrimp dispersion, they found that the brine shrimp in the ground unit clumped together, centering on the magnifying glass while the in-unit sent to space, brine shrimp were more spread out, only clumping in small groups. This was because water filled up from the bottom of the capsule when brine shrimp eggs were already stuck to the surface of the capsule, so it didn’t affect the brine shrimp. The way the brine shrimp eggs are situated in the flight unit could be attributed to how the brine shrimp eggs started off and how water adheres to the side of the capsule first before filling as much space as possible. Essentially, water went up the sides of the capsule first, leaving only the middle with space for air. 

Then on September 7, 2021, the SpaceLab team finally received their capsule and were able to make observations past the images. Unfortunately, the brine shrimp didn't hatch due to other factors in both the ground and flight unit capsules such as high temperatures, so the experiment was not a complete success. However, a lot of valuable data was still gathered, and the SpaceLab team is proud of their results this year; they hope that this will lead to better experiments in the future. 

  • SpaceLab
  • collaboration
  • critical thinking
  • experiment
  • international space station
  • space lab



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