‘Opportunity of a lifetime’: University of Idaho students send science project into space

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. — Eight University of Idaho students are on their way to NASA to send a state-of-the-art science project to space.

The team of undergrads and recent graduates submitted a proposal to NASA’s Student Payload Opportunity With Citizen Science (SPOCS) nationwide competition. They wanted to create an experiment to fight germs on high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and sinks. They synthesized a polymer to fight bacteria and want to see how it’ll withstand some of the harshest conditions in space.

“Ultimately, they would help to reduce the bacteria transmission that we see on those high contact surface areas that sometimes get people sick,” said Hannah Johnson. She’s a recent Chemical Engineering grad from the University of Idaho.

Johnson, who is the team lead, and others landed in Florida on Wednesday and have been busy with final prep before the project takes off. Their project will spend 30 days at the International Space Station to see how it does resisting bacteria in microgravity.

While they savor the surreal experience at the Kennedy Space Center, they’re proud of the University of Idaho roots that got them there.

“It’s such a little school that can do such great things. Now, we’re up here with Columbia and Stanford, and it’s just so amazing,” said Kaitlyn Harvey. She’s a senior studying Biological Engineering at the University of Idaho.

“It’s been really exciting to be back in it and to be back representing U of I again,” Johnson added.

The rest of their team will fly to Florida this weekend, and the big takeoff will happen Tuesday, Dec. 21.

“We get to actually touch something that’s going into space which how many people can say that?” Harvey said. “It’s definitely something that we’ll remember forever, and it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.”

We’ll continue to have in-depth, behind the scene coverage of the Vandals Voyage on-air, online and on social media.

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