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June 1st, 2012

Last Day in Houston

On our last day we slept in and ate breakfast at IHOP. Then we headed over to Kemah Boardwalk to ride on the park rides. We all rode the double-decker carousel,

and then hopped right in to a gondola on the ferris wheel. We also rode the super high flying Aviator and a little train that took us all around the park. We also got to visit a Stingray touch tank, which was neat. They were kind of splashy but we did get close enough to touch them. They are very slippery and rubbery.

We decided to ride the Aviator again when we noticed the shuttle that was being ferried from Florida to Houston was arriving in the harbor. We craned our necks to see the approaching shuttle. It was amazing. We had heard that it was arriving for a “shuttle-bration” in Houston that afternoon and were so excited to catch a glimpse of it. When we road on our next ride, we could still see it as it moved down the river. It was really big.

At last, it was time for us to head to the airport. We made a stop at a restaurant called Yum Yum Cha and had dim sum (which is when you order many little dishes of food and all share). There was a lot of traffic in Houston but we made it to the airport in time to catch our 5:30 flight. We got home around 12:30am. I felt like I could sleep for twelve hours! (and I did!)

I am so thankful for Jim Metzner for taking us to Houston and to the judges for choosing our project to win. I had a fantastic time. I can’t wait to tell my science teacher all about it!

May 31st, 2012

Space Center Houston

Bright and early we met Jim Metzner at our hotel. He gave Isabella, her dad and me a ride to NASA. There we met Wes, the cameraman, who would be taking video of our visit. After we had our microphones situated we met a mechanical engineer, Jeff, who began our tour. Our first stop was at the remake of the Apollo 13 Mission Control Center. He then led us to a demonstration space module where people are trained for their trip to space. We even got to go inside! Then he showed us his area of expertise- a space toilet! We toured the Habitability Design Center where they design mockups of future space stations.

My favorite part of the tour came next, the Food Lab.  We met Vickie Kloeris, the manager of the lab. Here is where food is tested and freeze-dried for outer space. Not only did we get to take a tour, but we also got to taste-test space food. It wasn’t in tubes or anything, but was warmed and ready to eat.  Most of what we tried was actually quite delicious. My favorite out of the 32 was the Mac n’ cheese.  It is important for the astronauts to have food similar to what they have at home so they don’t get home sick.

After taste testing, we were showed how they prepare food for space. Isabella and I put on gloves, hairnets and masks to package brownies for space. These brownies won’t actually go to outer space but hopefully they will make the trip back to Asheville safely so I can show my family.

Our tour of NASA ended at lunchtime.  We met my mom and we all headed over to Fuddruckers for lunch and to meet one of the contest judges, Jay Niel. He was really funny.  We enjoyed our yummy hamburgers and then drove to the Space Center Houston. We had a great time. We explored the Science of Fear exhibit, which included displays of fear of loud sounds, fear of animals, and fear of many other things.

Then we had the opportunity to watch a demonstration of Life in Space. I was chosen to help with the demonstration, which was a lot of fun because I had just learned so much about space life at NASA.

I helped the presenter demonstrate how astronauts store their clothing in drawers (with a net so they don’t float away), how they sleep strapped in to a space bed. It was like a sleeping bag stuck to the wall with a Velcro strap across my head. I also helped explain how a space toilet works. Thankfully, she didn’t ask me to demonstrate that. She showed us how astronauts shower in space, which is more like a wipe down with a damp cloth. Lastly, she explained to the audience how astronaut food is packaged and how an astronaut prepares it in space. I liked helping with the demonstration. She gave me photos of astronauts who are right now living on the space station.

We then took a tour of the Starship Gallery. Jay pointed out a very sparkly red, white and blue vest that was worn by Gene Krantz, the NASA flight director of the Apollo missions. It was neat to hear his story because he the Krantz family.

After a visit to the gift shop and buying a few souvenirs for my brother and sister, we decided we needed a little rest before dinner and went back to the hotel. We met Jim for dinner at a local Houston restaurant called T-Bone Toms. Glenda Johnson, one of our NASA tour guides, joined us for dinner too. There was live music Houston style! What a day. We walked back to our hotel, which was just around the corner, and fell asleep.

May 30th, 2012

First Day in Houston

We woke up very early to catch our 5:30am flight out of Asheville. The whole flight Isabella and I were yawning but we stayed awake because we were so excited to get to Houston.

When we landed we drove to our hotel, which was very close to the Kemah Boardwalk and had many rides and restaurants. After eating a yummy lunch at the Lighthouse Buffet we decided to visit the Museum of Natural Science in Houston. My favorite part of the museum was the butterfly exhibit. We walked through a garden of trees and plants while butterflies landed on us. We saw some very beautiful butterflies. We ate dinner downtown Houston at a park called Discovery Green. Houston is hot so we played in an outdoor fountain in the park. We got pretty wet, but it was fun. We also took lots of pictures by a really big modern art sculpture. After we watched an outdoor yoga class and even joined in for a little bit, we decided to head back to our hotel. We wanted to have a good night sleep and be ready for our early visit to NASA in the morning.

May 4th, 2012

Meals on Mars Winner Announced!

Congratulations to Pickled Cucumbers (Isabella St. Onge and Carlisle Patete) for winning the Grand Prize for their entry in the Kids’ Science Challenge Animal Smarts category. Here’s their entry:

“Our idea is that if you build a capsule-shaped ship, that spins, it would create gravity using centrifugal force. You could then be able to grow plants normally, without genetic engineering. You could also put animals in the ship, such as jackrabbits and worms. You would put clay and dirt, on the inside edge, then plant vegetables in the ground. There would be a donut-shaped water tank in the center, that would be long, and tall enough that the astronauts would be able to eat and sleep in it. The water would also create a shield from ultra violet storms. There would be solar panels on the outer rim of the ship, so that LED lights would be able to be powered to provide light for the plants. Since the rabbit reproduce so quickly, they would serve as food and their waste would create extremely fertilized soil. Some of the vegetables on the ship could be cucumbers, corn, and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are great because you can eat every part of them. The corn can be harvested normally, and would be good to feed the rabbits. The cucumbers would be a fine idea to bring along because you can eat them as a raw snack and can preserve them by turning them into pickles, using brine. These vegetables can be stored in a storage tank, in the back of the ship. It would have an extra layer of clay to protect the food from UV rays. A smaller ship would be in the storage, so that when the astronauts get to Mars, they can send it out to find a safe place to land. It would have a drill on it, so it could explore the Red Planet.

We came up with this idea when we researched centrifugal force, and what plants are best for space. Origanally we were going to design powdered beverages, but it wasn’t what we bargained for, so Isabella asked her parents if there was a way to make gravity in space. They told her about centrifugal force. She has had rabbits before and knew how good for space they would be. I love worms and researched about how they fertalize the dirt. The space ship was first designed with a drill on it, but that had more than a few problems, so we made a smaller ship to survey Mars’ terrain. We remembered that NASA is looking for a new ship idea, so we decided to make the ships capsule-shaped, instead of the retired shuttle.”

See where Isabella and Carlisle traveled, in order to work with scientists to carry out his experiment!

View all of this year’s winners and finalists.