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Space Shuttle Will Carry Shawnee Science Experiment

The experiment tests how the Lactobacillus bacteria grow in low gravity. It will help determine whether astronauts need to change their diet to stay healthy in space.

When the Space Shuttle Endeavour blasts off for the last time in April, a science project from Louisville high school students will be on board.

Students at the Academy at Shawnee have developed an experiment that will determine how Lactobacillus bacteria grow in lower gravity. Chemistry teacher Imogen Herrick says Lactobaciullus has been shown to decline in humans during space travels, and figuring out why that happens could help keep astronauts healthy.

“If you don’t have enough Lactobacillus, you could be susceptible to skin infections, general health ailments, digestive tract issues, so it’s definitely a bacteria that’s very necessary for the body to run well,” she says.

Shawnee is among more than dozen schools to have developed experiments that will be on board the shuttle. Once the experiment is complete, the students will share their results with NASA and each other.

“The real purpose of the whole project was to teach high school students all of the trials and tribulations that go along with doing a real science project from start to finish and then sharing that data as scientists do in the real world,” says Herrick.