The Canadian Space Agency has a question for students: Have you ever wondered how things behave in space?
The agency is inviting students from across Canada to devise a science experiment to investigate that question and enter it into the Canadian Space Science Challenge. The winning entry will be conducted on the International Space Station by CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is making final preparations for his next mission in which he will eventually serve as station commander.
But there is a caveat (and you knew there had to be one): The experiment can only use materials already found aboard the ISS. Like socks. Dental floss. Scissors. Mustard.
You get the idea.
The contest runs through Dec. 31, and is only open to Canadians under the age of 19. There are two categories: “At School” and “At Home.”
The “At School” category is for classrooms or teams of students at a school. “At Home” is for individual students. (And the winner there gets the added bonus of a personal call from Hadfield while he’s in space!)
Hadfield is scheduled to board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in early December (target date is Dec. 5) at the Roscosmos Cosmodrome. He will be aboard the International Space Station for six months. Halfway through his stay, he will begin to oversee operations, making him the first Canadian Commander of the ISS.
Over the last weeks of September, Hadfield made his last trip to Canada before beginning his final training and preparation for the trip.
On Dec. 2, Hadfield and other members of Expedition 34/35 are set to leave for Baikonur, Kazahkstan, where the Soyuz spacecraft will be launched. Among other activities before takeoff will be the traditional visit to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre.
Among other things, the centre is the home of Gagarin’s original office. In April 1961, Gagarin became the first human to venture into space.
While aboard the ISS, Hadfield will perform a variety of official tasks, including scientific experiments, operation of the robotic Canadarm2, and, of course, running things. But he also will eat from a menu featuring the favorite regional foods of the winners of the “Canadian Snacks for Space” contest, and conduct the winning student experiments.
For more on Hadfield and his upcoming mission, visit his website.
And for the full rules and other details on the Canadian Space Science Challenge, see the contest website.
AJ Plunkett is a freelance writer in Virginia with experience in covering defense and aerospace industries, as well as health care issues. AJ blogs via Contently.com.