Alliance with the US enables Brazilian students to conduct an experiment on the International Space Station (ISS)
For the first time in more than a decade, Brazil will once again send an experiment to the International Space Station to be conducted by an astronaut. The initiative is the Garatéa Mission, and it is sponsored by the same space consortium that is planning the first Brazilian lunar mission, with launch scheduled for 2021.
Named Garatéa-ISS, the project will be part of the 12th edition of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), an annual initiative of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) and NanoRacks in conjunction with NASA. The goal of the program is to engage the student community in educational experiments in space.
"This is the first time that a community outside of North America has been approved by the program and we are very excited about the opportunity," says Lucas Fonseca director of Garatea.
The opportunity was facilitated by the Brazil-Florida Chamber of Commerce, which helped in the search for an impact project that would align Brazilian and American interests. The intersection was found through the KSC International Academy (KSCIA).
"I think the greatest importance of such a collaboration is the opportunity to inspire the future generation that will eventually act in some area of the space program," says Jefferson Michaelis, project coordinator and president of the Brazil-Florida Chamber of Commerce. "For Brazil, a chance to revive the alliance with the ISS and, at the same time, the opportunity for young Brazilians and educators to join the space area. For the US, an opportunity to get to know the talented, creative and innovative Brazilian youth. This can help create new opportunities between the two nations. "
The Brazilian experiment should go to the space station in 2018 and will have the participation of 450 students from the 7th grade (average age: 13) from both public and private schools. Brazilian students have not had an opportunity like this since 2006, when the Centenary Mission took Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian astronaut, to the International Space Station.
The project does not have public funding and, like the Garatéa-L lunar mission, seeks support from the private sector for its realization.
"This first year we are considering this project like a pilot", explains Fonseca. "For the coming year, we are aiming a partnership with the Brazilian Astronomy Olympiad and we have the ambitious goal of expanding the program to reach 1 million children. To do so, we must prove ourselves on this first flight."
The initiative will begin this year, with the Dante Alighieri School, in the city of São Paulo. The school offered classrooms, laboratories and teachers for the planning and development of the experiment. In return, their students will participate in the project along with students from public schools.
In addition to engaging students in a cutting-edge space project, the initiative will provide teachers with the chance to interact with high-level scientists and educators working in Brazil and in the United States. "Without a doubt, it's an incredible opportunity," says Amanda Bendia, a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) Institute of Oceanography involved in the project. "Students will have the experience not only by going through all the steps a scientist performs for the development of their research, but will also have to think of experiments that are simple, practical, and feasible to run on the ISS. It will be a great challenge that will count on the support of Brazilian researchers specializing in areas such as Astronomy, Biology, Physics and Chemistry, which will provide the multidisciplinary support necessary for students to develop their experimental proposals. "
"I think this initiative is fantastic, very important for the students and teachers involved," adds Ana Carolina Zeri of the National Laboratory of Synchrotron Light. "I'm really excited and happy to be able to help."
It is not yet defined which experiment will be performed. It will be chosen and designed between September and December this year to go into space in the first half of 2018 on board the International Space Station. It will be run by an American astronaut and, after four to six weeks, will be brought back to Earth for analysis of results.
KSCIA educators will accompany the Brazilian students responsible for the experiments who will also participate in a conference presenting results at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and will have the chance to interact with American students who will participate in the same program.
The project will be advised by scientists linked to NASA, a KSCIA mentor and Brazilian researchers from the University of São Paulo and the National Laboratory of Synchrotron Light.
The objective of the project is to broaden the interest of cooperation between Brazilian American students and educators in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).