Last month, our research efforts were featured in Upward, the magazine of the International Space Station National Lab. You can find the link to the magazine here. The text of the article is included below!
BY AUSTIN JORDAN
Disappointment billowed in the air, higher than the plumes of white smoke that burst over the Cape Canaveral skies on that clear June afternoon. A sinking feeling resided in the pits of stomachs, as the world watched the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explode a few minutes after lift-off. This feeling, “oh no not again,” was compounded for a team of student scientists who had experienced this unwelcome feeling just eight months prior as they witnessed the rst loss of their ISS-bound research project, “Tin Whiskers,” in the Orb-3 mishap in October 2014.
But, as the smoke cleared and the journey to return to ight commenced, this determined team was inspired by the same spirit that has fueled our space program for generations—that discovery is not de ned by our failures, challenges, or losses but rather by our resilience.
“Science is a process of failures, re-groupings, and discoveries,” said Rachel Lindbergh, student scientist on the Tin Whiskers team. “These setbacks were devastating in the moment, but my team saw each mishap as an opportunity to improve our experiment. We’ll cherish the end result all the more after conquering what we have faced.”
Lindbergh and Joseph Garvey, co-principal investigators for Tin Whiskers, are involved in the Student Space- ight Experiments Program (SSEP), a program created and managed by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. The Tin Whiskers team was selected from an SSEP competition led by Palmetto Scholars Academy in North Charleston, South Carolina, in which hundreds of pre-college students designed and proposed microgravity experiments.
The science of Tin Whiskers involves studying tiny crystalline structures that form around tin-plated metals commonly used in electronic components. The formation of these tiny structures, whose growth may be enhanced during space ight, is problematic for electronic equipment and can trigger malfunction within devices ranging from small electronic parts to satellites.
Lindbergh and Garvey have spent the last two years working to send their project to the ISS to test the hypothesis that space ight promotes tin whisker growth. The Tin Whiskers team hopes their research will expand on current understanding of how space ight affects electronic devices—in hopes of ultimately improving manufacturing processes for electrical components used in space ight and aviation.
After months of ardent work and collaboration, Tin Whiskers is slated to launch again on SpaceX-8, and the team
is excited to see their project come to fruition.
“Being involved in this experiment opened my eyes to the true collaborative nature of science and to all the mysteries left undiscovered,” Lindbergh said. “The possibilities for discovery are immense, and it is inspiring to know that my generation’s future scientists and researchers will soon be contributing.”