Solar storms scupper Hampton School boy's experiment's trip to the International Space Station

Solar storms scupper experiment's trip to the International Space Station

Experiments: Laurence Cook, far right, and the team

Ready for liftoff? Not quite, unfortunately

First published in News Richmond and Twickenham Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

An experiment by a former Hampton School student is awaiting launch into space, and the record books, having been scuppered by solar storms.

Laurence Cook, 19, who attended the independent school and its sixth form, worked on the Mission Discovery project with other students.

The experiment focuses on testing the effectiveness of antibiotics on E coli in space, a topic that has not been examined in depth previously.

It is the first time an experiment devised by UK secondary school pupils will be launched to the International Space Station, as part of the International Space School Educational Trust’s (Isset) Mission Discovery programme at King’s College London.

Mr Cook, who now reads physics at Oxford University, said his teachers at Hampton School recommended the project.

He said: “The idea came from working in a group while spending the week at King’s College in London.

“There were several groups who came up with ideas and then two were picked out, which were to be the most viable to carry out.

“We realised antibiotics appear to be less effective in space than down here and it went from there.”

It was due to be launched aboard the Orbital Sciences Cygnus Cargo rocket at Nasa’s Wallops Launch site in the United States on January 9, after the previous two days’ attempts were disrupted by solar storms.

Dr Julie Keeble, a lecturer in pharmacology at King’s and a leading academic in the experimental project development, said: “It has been inspirational to work with such talented young people over the past year in turning their winning projects into workable experiments that can be carried out on the International Space Station.”

The second experiment being sent up to space will examine whether slime mould grows three-dimensionally in space due to the lack of gravity.

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.”

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