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Hartford Experiment Along For Ride As SpaceX's Dragon Makes History

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

May 25, 2012

HARTFORD Friday turned out to be a joyous "berth"-day for commercial space flight and the Hartford school team with a science experiment aboard SpaceX's Dragon.

At 9:56 a.m., for the first time in history, the International Space Station linked with a private spacecraft.

"Houston ... it looks like we got us a dragon by the tail," NASA astronaut Don Pettit reported after grabbing the unmanned capsule created by the California firm Space Exploration Technologies with the space station's robotic arm.

Shortly after noon, Dragon officially berthed with the station, three days, eight hours and 18 minutes following its rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The station crew expects to open Dragon's hatch Saturday morning, according to NASA. Astronauts will then unload the capsule's roughly 1,000 pounds of cargo mostly food and clothing, but including the project on osteoporosis from the Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School and the University High School of Science and Engineering.

The experiment, which fits into a small vial, is one of 15 student projects from the U.S. that flew on Dragon through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, an initiative of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education inWashington, D.C., and NanoRacks, a company with a research lab on the space station. The astronauts will tend to the experiments.

"It's been a whirlwind 48 hours," said Annie Fisher's Keith Sevigny, who on Thursday night was named Hartford's 2012 Teacher of the Year.

Sevigny was in third period, teaching an honors eighth-grade science class that focuses on physics and astronomy, when the robotic arm "grappled" Dragon Friday morning. The 30-year-old said he was humbled.

"I never thought I'd be the kind of teacher sending experiments into space," Sevigny said.

Last year, Annie Fisher eighth-graders designed a science project that rode on the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis, the conclusion of NASA's shuttle program.

The H.A. Vance Foundation in Hartford sponsored the $20,000 cost for the city's participation in the latest historic mission. Collaborators included the University of Hartford, which offered mentorship and use of a campus laboratory, and Yale University and Hamilton Sundstrand.

"I'm still shocked that things really happened," said University High senior Bo-Edward Lawrence, 17, of Hartford.

His team will test whether microgravity has an effect on medicinal treatment for bone loss; Lawrence wants to major in biology at the University of Hartford and continue work on the experiment.

"It had been delayed so many times," said classmate Samantha Cedeno, 18, of Middletown, who will enroll at the University of New Haven to study forensic science. Dragon's target launch date was originally set for March.

"Every time they told me it was going up, I told them, 'I have to see it to believe it,'" Cedeno said Friday.

The project will return when Dragon does. NASA, which has a contract with SpaceX to resupply the International Space Station, expects the capsule to splash down in the Pacific Ocean on May 31. The experiments would then be shipped to the schools.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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