Created to honor the legacy of the Mercury 13, Project PoSSUM is pleased to announce the PoSSUM 13, a talented group of thirteen female Scientist-Astronaut Candidates and Advanced Academy PoSSUM graduates who will serve as global ambassadors in increasing opportunity and representation for students — and especially young women– who have a passion for space science and exploration. Through combination of educational outreach initiatives and mentorship, the PoSSUM 13 serve as ambassadors to citizen science.
The PoSSUM 13 Microgravity Flight Challenge invites female-led student teams worldwide to compete for a payload experiment aboard the National Research Council of Canada’s Falcon 20 research aircraft. This plane is capable of flying steep maneuvers called parabolas, allowing researchers to experience repeated periods of weightlessness or microgravity. Scientists use these flight conditions to study the effects of reduced gravity on humans and hardware.
In an effort to celebrate and promote the achievements of women in space science, up to two teams will be selected to fully design and build their experiment and will receive mentoring from PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidates regarding pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight procedures. One student from the top winning team will have the opportunity to fly as a mission specialist on board the Falcon-20 in September 2020 as part of PoSSUM’s annual microgravity campaign (certain restrictions and conditions apply).
Each proposal team should address the following questions in their experiment plan:
March 15, 2020: Microgravity Webinar
April 1, 2020: Proposals Due
April 15, 2020: Winning Teams Announced
April-May, 2020: Payload Build, Mentoring
June 1, 2020: Student Payload Demonstration (via video conference)
June 15, 2020: Test Equipment Data Package Due (TEDP)
July 1, 2020: Payloads Shipped to Integrated Spaceflight Services
July 26, 2020: Winning Student Announced
August 6, 2020: Payloads Shipped to National Research Council of Canada
September 27 to October 2, 2020: Flight Campaign (Ottawa, Canada)
Submit a written proposal and a short video explaining your idea for the experiment. Describe the science question your team wants to answer and the description of the procedures to be performed by Scientist-Astronaut candidates or Payload Specialists during the flight. Proposals shall be no more than five pages long and may include drawings describing the experiment. Please include:
1) the title of the experiment,
2) the names of all students and mentors and their roles in the project,
3) the name of school, institution, education platform, or program,
4) mission patch design,
5) a short summary or abstract, and
6) a list of equipment/materials (if applicable)
7) your experiment plan
Videos shall be no longer than two (2) minutes and can be narrated in Spanish, English, or French. They should include the following:
1) an introduction of the team,
2) a brief description of your experiment idea,
3) What excites you about having an experiment flown in microgravity?
Then upload your video to Youtube (with parent or adult mentor approval) and include a link in your application by May 5th, 2019.
After a competitive evaluation period, three student team finalists were selected and flew experiments during our 2019 campaign.
The 2019 PoSSUM 13 Microgravity Challenge Winner Ivanna Hernandez from Colombia demonstrates her experiment in microgravity with the Project PoSSUM team in the 2019 campaign at the National Research Council of Canada.
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The Mercury 13 were thirteen American women who, as part of a privately funded program, underwent the same physiological screening tests as the astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959 for Project Mercury.
The term was coined in 1959 by Hollywood producer James Cross as a comparison to the Mercury Seven name given to the selected male astronauts; however, the Mercury 13 were not part of NASA’s astronaut program, never flew in space and never met as a group. William Randolph Lovelace II, former Flight Surgeon and later, chairman of the NASA Special Advisory Committee on Life Science, helped develop the tests for NASA’s male astronauts and became curious to know how women would do taking the same tests. All of the candidates were accomplished pilots.
Lovelace and Cobb reviewed the records of over 700 women pilots in order to select candidates, and did not invite anyone with less than 1,000 hours of flight experience. Some of them may have been recruited through the Ninety-Nines, a women pilot’s organization of which Cobb was also a member. Jane Hart was the oldest candidate, at 41, and mother of eight. Wally Funk, was the youngest, at 23. Marion and Janet Dietrich were twin sisters.