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Astronauts Join Students to Promote Engineering Design Challenge


WASHINGTON - NASA, the U.S. National Arboretum, U.S. Department of Education and the Herb Society of America will host an out-of-this-world school field trip on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 10 a.m. EST in Washington. The event will take place at the U.S. National Arboretum at 3501 New York Ave., NE, as part of International Education Week. Media are invited to attend.

Seventy-two students from the Arlington Science Focus School in Arlington, Va., will present to a panel of experts the lunar plant growth chambers they created as part of the 2007 NASA Engineering Design Challenge. The panel includes engineers, plant specialists and three astronauts from NASA’s STS-118 Endeavour space shuttle mission, which flew in August. Astronauts attending are Scott Kelly, commander, Barbara R. Morgan, educator and mission specialist, and Dave Williams, Canadian Space Agency mission specialist.

The students are growing cinnamon basil seeds that were flown on Endeavour in their design chambers. The soil for the seeds came from a unique source -- the Washington Nationals ballpark. Arcillite, a claylike substance used in ballpark field maintenance, provides optimal growing conditions in a growth chamber.

The 2007 NASA Engineering Design Challenge provides the opportunity for elementary, middle and high school students to explore a real-world problem facing future space exploration: sustaining resources on the moon. Plant growth will be an important part of space exploration. NASA scientists anticipate that astronauts may grow plants on the moon in specialized chambers.


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