Marvel, Space Station lab partner for student experiment challenge

Students can select Team Groot, Team Rocket for submission inspiration

The 2016 'Guardians of the Galaxy' ISS National Lab patch designed by Marvel.
The 2016 'Guardians of the Galaxy' ISS National Lab patch designed by Marvel.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – It’s time to for students to decide. Team Groot or Team Rocket?

Marvel Entertainment is calling on U.S. students between 13 and 18 years old interested in STEM to submit experiment designs inspired by "Guardians of the Galaxy" characters Groot and Rocket that could end up on the International Space Station laboratory.

Marvel collaborated with the Center for Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, the nonprofit in charge of finding and brokering experiments to the orbiting laboratory, to collect student entries for the Space Station Explorers program.

Students are asked to select a team either Groot or Team Rocket to determine the basis for their ISS research concept.

Team Groot applications should – obviously -- be centered around growing plants in space, or studying how plants respond to microgravity.

Fortunately, Team Rocket applicants won’t be asked to turn whatever they find in their prison cells into a weapon to break their friends out. Rocket-inspired experiments should focus on programming hardware to evaluate experiments, satellite technology or how the extreme conditions in space can test new materials.

Two hardware companies will be used for the final flight experiments, Space Tango for Team Groot and Nanoracks for Team Rocket.

“Both Rocket and Groot have characteristics that are researched onboard the ISS daily, and to allow students to propose experiments based on their favorite superheroes will be an exciting way to engage our Nation’s youth about STEM principles and the space station,” CASIS Director of Operations and Educational Opportunities Kenneth Shields said in a news release.

The Jan. 31 deadline is approaching at warp speed. Students can apply and get more details about the requirements at spacestationexplorers.org/marvel.

The winning spaceflight concepts will launch on a cargo resupply mission to the space station this year making the selected students superheroes in their own right.

Groot, Rocket and the ISS

The "Guardians" characters have an ongoing relationship with CASIS and the space station. Marvel designed a special edition space station mission patch in 2016 featuring Groot and Rocket that symbolizes all experiments headed to the orbiting laboratory. The lab can have several hundred ongoing experiments happening on the station at one time.

Groot and Rocket were a natural choice for the patch because of their intergalactic story lines, said Marck Basso, with Marvel custom solutions.

The red, white and blue patch, designed by Marvel comic artist Juan Doe, features the flames from the "Guardians of the Galaxy" shield, the ISS and, of course, Groot and Rocket.

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