EXPERIMENTS designed by secondary school students were due to be launched into space by a Penarth-based charity yesterday, January 8.

The International Space School Educational Trust, based in Penarth, ran a competition through its Mission Discovery programme giving students the opportunity to design and build an experiment to be sent into space, up to the International Space Station and carried out by astronauts.

Yesterday’s launch, scheduled for 6.30pm from NASA’s Wallops Island Launch Centre in the United States, was the first time any UK students’ experiments have been launched into space. The next launch will carry the experiments of 2013’s winners of the Mission Discovery programme, a team of schoolchildren from South Wales, into space.

The students competed in teams in 2012 and two winning experiments were selected by a panel of judges including NASA Space Shuttle Commander Ken Ham and Professor Steve Harridge, Director of the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Sciences at King’s College London.

One experiment will test the effectiveness of antibiotics on E. coli in space, something that has not been examined in depth before. The findings could have significant implications for the health of astronauts in space and the development of antibiotics here on earth. The team behind the antibiotics experiment comprises Mahdi Baksh and Amin Habib from Morpeth School; Phoebe Tupper, Emily Yeomans and Deanna Middleton from Gumley House Convent School; and Laurence Cook from Hampton School.

The other experiment will examine whether slime mould grows three-dimensionally in space due to the lack of gravity. We know that here on earth slime mould has spatial memory, and can even solve mazes by avoiding its own trails. This intriguing experiment was designed by Siobhan Gnanakulendran, Frederika Cole, Laurenda Attah-Wegbe, Alfie Dent, Daniel Roth and Colin Taylor from Haberdasher’s Aske’s College.

The launch at NASA’s Wallops Island Launch Centre in the United States follows the Mission Discovery Programme held in July 2012, where 250 budding scientists designed experiments with the guidance of an astronaut, NASA leaders and renowned scientists at King’s and from around the world.

Chris Barber, ISSET’s Director, said: “We developed Mission Discovery to help young people learn how to be scientifically creative, increase their abilities to work together, and to have the chance to achieve something beyond their wildest dreams that is truly out of this world.”

Professor Harridge added: ‘We are delighted to be involved in such a unique initiative, which aims to inspire the next generation of scientists. This has been an excellent opportunity for young people to meet world-leading experts in the field and work on a real-life experiment that will be undertaken on the International Space Station.’

Visit www.isset.org for more details.