Russia invades Ukraine, retreats from ISS
Minnehaha’s annual space-station project may take new directions in future years
Testing shark skin on bacteria growth, growing calciumÂ carbonate crystals and tryingÂ to revive dried algae have allÂ been experiments worked onÂ and sent into space by the Minnehaha ISS (International SpaceÂ Station) team.
But with recent news on Russia withdrawing from the ISS andÂ the removal of the Space StationÂ in upcoming years, what doesÂ the future of this class look like?
The 2021-2022 MinnehahaÂ Academy International SpaceÂ Station experiment will growÂ Chlorella Algae and study how itÂ converts carbon dioxide to oxygen in space. This year’s Minnehaha Academy ISS team createdÂ the experiment, which was sentÂ to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 27.
“We chose to grow algae because collecting data on carbonÂ dioxide consumption couldÂ help solve many of the currentÂ issues they are having on theÂ ISS,” said ISS team member LarsÂ Ramgren.
One of the growing problemsÂ on the ISS is the high rising levels of C02.
“Since air doesn’t circulate in microgravity compared to that on Earth, CO2 can build up in parts of the ISS,” Ramgren explained. “This build-up can be hazardous to the astronauts on the ISS. Finding ways to get rid of this CO2 buildup could be critical in future space projects.”
With this team’s project coming to a close, concerns about the future of the class rise as many obstructions have started to appear.
On Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, starting a war whose impact has stretched not only across the planet but also into space.Â Since 2000, when people firstÂ moved in, the ISS has generallyÂ managed to stay out of Earth-bound politics – but the UkraineÂ conflict could change that. Recently Russia has stated that itÂ will end cooperation with western countries over the ISS untilÂ sanctions are lifted.
For decades, the U.S. and Russia have collaborated in space.
“From the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which took place mid-Cold War, to the continued partnership in the International Space Station program, the two nations have worked together in space amidst political upheaval
on Earth,” stated a report onÂ Space.com, a media website focusing on space-related news.
“By design, the ISS relies onÂ Russia working together smoothly with 14 other nations,” the report stated. “Part of the stationÂ is Russian-built and operated byÂ cosmonauts. The NASA-led sideÂ of the station provides electricalÂ power to the Russian side, whileÂ Russia provides the orbital boosting that is occasionally needed toÂ stop the ISS from falling to lowerÂ altitudes and disintegrating inÂ Earth’s atmosphere.”
The possibilities of how Russia’s withdrawal could affect the ISS are still unclear as news about the Russia and Ukraine invasion changes daily.Â However, with this recent endÂ in ISS cooperation, missions withÂ Russian-led instrument teams,Â such as the neutron detector onÂ its Curiosity Mars rover couldÂ be impacted.
Along with political issues impacting the Space Station, NASA has announced that the station will be decommissioned in 2031. The ISS will be creasing back to Earth before splashing down in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.
This allows Minnehaha toÂ send their research to space forÂ at most only nine more years.Â With many obstacles in the wayÂ of the class, Minnehaha studentsÂ and faculty have many hopes forÂ the future of the ISS class.
The Future of the Class
“This has been something onÂ my mind for a while now,” saidÂ ISS team advisor and physicsÂ teacher Tim Swanson. “WhatÂ will we do next if we aren’t ableÂ to send our research to space?”
One possible option is anÂ engineering class that finds aÂ real-world problem and designsÂ a project over a semester trying to further understand theÂ topic. Minnehaha has exploredÂ this possibility in the past by introducing a sustainable gardenÂ project.
“We’re always on the lookoutÂ for new ways to use engineeringÂ for practical applications,” saidÂ Swanson. “It was an idea of continuing to create an engineeringÂ project that solves a problemÂ outside of the ISS specific program. This type of class is justÂ something down the line we’reÂ going to need when we stop sending our work to space.”
Another option, SwansonÂ said, is to still focus on microgravity projects but attempt toÂ complete the testing on Earth.
Ramgren is also curious aboutÂ what the future of the class willÂ look like.
“It will be cool to see whatÂ the school comes up with as aÂ replacement for the class,” heÂ said. “Being part of this prestigious class gives students an incredible opportunity to expandÂ their interest in engineering.Â Given how much interest the ISSÂ class gets from the students, I betÂ Minnehaha will try to implementÂ more similar type engineeringÂ classes to the course registration options.”
The ISS class has drawn students to change their courseÂ work to meet the requirementsÂ so that they can be acceptedÂ into the class. Students will evenÂ take certain classes and extracurricular courses like 3D printÂ and coding lessons so that theyÂ have an increased chance of being accepted.
“Will we have another class that students try to adjust their whole academic direction to get into? It’s hard to say,” exclaimed Swanson.
Competition has its benefits.
“I would love to see that though,” he said, “because I feel that when you have a class that draws interest like that, not only do you end up with a motivated group of students that are ready to take on any task, but then they are also learning things not because they are told to, but becauseÂ they have a genuine interest forÂ it. I’m excited to see the futureÂ of engineering at Minnehaha.”