Damien Science Experiment is Getting a 2nd Chance at Going to the International Space Station

A group of students from Damien High School will be sending their experiment to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday April 8th aboard the SpaceX Falcon rocket with the CRS-8 Dragon Spacecraft.  The rocket will be launched out of Cape Canaveral, Florida at approximately 1:43 pm PDT.  The experiment is being launched for a second time as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) at Damien High School and is one of 24 student experiments selected from around the country to be carried out on the ISS.  The original experiment was aboard the SpaceX CRS-7 Dragon Spacecraft that exploded during launch on June 28th, 2015. 

The original team of students is comprised of Co-Principal Investigators: Garrett Souza, David Washington, Ashwin Balaji , Co-Investigator: Richard Conti and Collaborator: Aaditya Patel.  New to the experiment this year are Co-Investigators: Ray Sun, Nick Hibshman, Jonathan Zhang, and Anthony Razo.  The experiment will be investigating tardigrade cryptobiotic strategies in a microgravity environment.  Tardigrades can, upon introduction to extreme environments, halt all metabolic processes in order to survive, through cryptobiosis. This experiment will investigate their cryptobiotic processes by measuring viability after exposure to a microgravity environment in an ametabolic state for a prolonged period. If capable of surviving exposure to microgravity, tardigrades may help us advance human space travel, such as expeditions covering greater distances and durations, as well as understand the evolutionary, possibly extraterrestrial, origins of the organism. The students will be carrying out an identical experiment here on Earth during the same time period that their experiment will be aboard the International Space Station and they will compare results once the microgravity experiment returns to Earth.

Back in June, the students traveled to Cape Canaveral to watch the original launch aboard the SpaceX CRS-7 Dragon Spacecraft.  Watching their experiment explode 2 minutes into the launch was a disappointing experience but the students have been given a 2nd chance to relaunch their experiment and relaunch their dreams of participating in real-life space science. 

Damien’s participation in SSEP creates a valuable opportunity to engage students in real-world learning experiences. “As a school, we recognize the need to introduce and support high quality, inquiry based, hands-on science teaching for all our students,” said Charity Trojanowski, Co-Director of the Damien SSEP. “Through SSEP, we were given the opportunity to let the students become real scientists and partake in real science inquiry.  Our students have had the chance to do something every scientist dreams of doing.  More importantly, they had the chance to experience failure at the highest level and how to move forward and keep pursuing their goal.”

For more information on the launch, please visit the media page:


The generous donors who enabled Damien’s participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program include Dr. James M. Lally (Joshua J. Simmons, ’08), William Saito ’87, Dr. Tas Dienes ’88, CASIS, and the Ahmanson Foundation.

The SSEP is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a non-profit organization that inspires the next generation of scientists and engineers in engaging their curiosity and intrigue. The SSEP is undertaken by the NCESSE in partnership with NanoRacks LLC. This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.