Berkeley Heights Student Spaceflight Experiment Scheduled for Launch Monday, October 27, 2014.

Second Row: Frank Geiger (Columbia Middle School Principal), Jim Flakker (SSEP Local Program Director). Front Row: Pam Wilczynski (Columbia Middle School Science Teacher), Gia LaSalle, Katherine Kapustka, Lilyanna Walsh, Julia Ellis, and Grace Acosta (Columbia Middle School Vice Principal.  Bianca Urbina not pictured  Credits: BHPS

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Berkeley Heights Public Schools is pleased to announce that a student designed science experiment will be launched to the International Space Station on Monday, October 27, 2014. Columbia Middle School eighth graders, Lily Walsh, KasiaKapustka, Julia Ellis, Gia LaSalle, and Bianca Urbina designed an experiment titled, “Baby Bloodsuckers in Outer Space.” This experiment was selected for launch to space from a pool of proposals submitted by students from the Berkeley Heights School District as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program ( is a remarkable U.S. national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative that gives students the ability to design and propose real experiments to fly in low Earth orbit. Beginning in February, Berkeley Heights Public Schools participated as a member of Mission 6 to ISS. Over 1000 students from the district took part in some aspect of the project. “Throughout participation in this program all of our students have had the chance to learn how professional research is carried out”, said Jim Flakker, the local community SSEP coordinator and Governor Livingston High School science teacher. “The students had to engineer experiments to accomplish their goals within very specific specifications outlined by the Call for Proposals”.   

The student-designed experiment will be carried aboard Orbital Sciences (Orb-3)Antares Rocket and Cygnus Vehicle,which will be launching from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island Virginia. The launch will be televised on NASA TV (, with coverage beginning at 6:00 PM EST, Monday, October 27.

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The winning proposal, “Baby Bloodsuckers in Outer Space” is a student-designed experiment to test the role of gravity in the development of Aedesalbopictus mosquito eggs. “We believe the eggs will hatch and mature into larvae even in microgravity. On earth, the larvae float to the surface of water to breathe and mature into pupae”, the students explained. Astronauts will preserve the mosquitoes shortly after they should have matured into pupae during their stay aboard the International Space Station.  The students continued to explain,  “without gravity […] the larvae will lack a mechanism to rise to the surface and therefore will fail to mature.”The students will also perform the same experiment on Earth in order to observe the differences between both specimens.

The SSEP ( is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (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.

The participation of over 1600 students grades K-12 in SSEP Mission 6 was made possible through donations made by the following local sponsors:

Summit Medical Group Foundation

Johnson and Johnson

The Linde Group


Berkeley Heights PTO 

Berkeley Heights Education Foundation

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