The Orion’s Quest Program

OQ is an internet based, education program for upper elementary, middle and high school students. OQ employs current NASA research to reach and inspire “the next generation of explorers.”

OQ places students in the role of research assistant in their classrooms supporting authentic research being conducted on the International Space Station.

Designed By Teachers

Our program has been designed by teachers who understand student needs, curriculum requirements, and the many demands placed on teachers today.

The Missions

The OQ programs consist of hands-on missions designed to stimulate student interest in the STEM disciplines. The curriculum template covers each experiment, or “mission”, from pre-flight preparation to post-flight activities, including student and program evaluation.

In The Classroom

OQ’s programs are designed to be flexible, exploiting the Internet in support of existing classroom curricula. Our program can be offered as supplemental modules incorporated into the regular science classroom curriculum, used as a club/after school activity, or assigned as an independent study assignment.

World Class Scientists

Orions Quest helps bring together today’s youth with scientists from world leading aerospace organizations.  Throughout the “mission” students and teachers are encouraged to submit questions for NASA scientists, engineers and technicians via the OQ staff.

The OQ Missions

Live missions (those currently in space) usually take place during a single semester while virtual missions (previously conducted in space) are available online throughout the school year. All material and equipment, either unique to the mission or not available in the classroom, is supplied by Orion’s Quest.

Orion’s Quest is currently recruiting teachers for the live mission “Stem on Station” supporting the work of Dr. Joseph Wu from Stanford University and Dr. Peter Lee from Ohio State University. This mission uses the microgravity environment to grow stem cells that are of sufficient quantity and quality to use in the treatment of stroke patients. The results may have downstream applications in broad tissue engineering and regenerative medicine efforts.

Stem On Station

On August 26, 2016 a SpaceX dragon capsule splashed down off the coast of California having delivered cargo and experiment payloads to the International Space Station. Included in that payload was an experiment designed to study the effects of microgravity on living heart cells.

In this experiment Principle Investigators (PI’s) Dr. Joseph Wu of Stanford University and Dr. Peter Lee of The Ohio State University use human heart cells derived from non-embryonic stem cells to look for changes in things like beat rate, morphology and gene expression while in the microgravity environment of space.

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Managing Microbes In Space

This experiment is a first of a kind study of the interactions of germs and host organisms in real time while in microgravity. By analyzing video downlinked from an experiment onboard the International Space Station and submitting their data to the Principle Investigator Dr. Cheryl Nickerson of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, students will be engaged in real space-based research and work in support of NASA’s Human Space Exploration program.

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Plant Growth In Space

This tenth mission uses the plant species Brassica rapa or Wisconsin Fast Plants and is designed to shed light on the question, “How do plants react to microgravity in their early growth stages”. As humans continue to expand the duration of space flights and the distance travelled from Earth the need for sustainability in space becomes essential.

This investigation is designed to have students discover how the phototropic and gravitropic responses of plants grown in a space-based experiment onboard the International Space Station compare with those of plants grown in an earth-based control experiment.

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Spiders In Space

This space-based research project gathers data about the interaction and movements of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the orb weaving spider Nephila clavipesliving in the same habitat while onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The investigation focuses on the spiders and is designed to study the differences between webs spun in the space-based experiment and the earth-based control experiment. Students will be asked to do a variety of activities including measurement of the growth of the spider and observing and recording the web spinning process in microgravity.

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Fruit Flies In Space

This virtual mission “Fruit Flies in Space” was part of the payload on NASA’s STS 134 flight. It is a biology based mission which focuses on the Fruit Fly Drosophila melanogaster and uses actual photographs, video and data downlinked from the International Space Station.

The mission is designed to have students support the work of NASA scientist Dr. Sharmila Bhattacharya, Head of the Biomodel Performance and Behavior Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center, as she studies the effects of microgravity on the development, behavior and movement of this organism.

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Butterflies In Space

Launched to the International Space Station aboard NASA’s mission STS-129 in November of 2009, this activity focuses on the ability of “Painted Lady Butterflies”, Vanessa cardui to “pupate” in microgravity.

This activity supports the research of the Butterfly Pavilion at Westminster, CO. Students construct a butterfly habitat in the classroom mimicking the structure and conditions of the “in-flight” habitat aboard the International Space Station.

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Silicate Gardens In Space

Orion’s Quest “Silicate Gardens in Space” virtual mission is a chemistry-based research study in support of the work of crystallographers Dr. Julyan Cartwright and Dr. C. Ignacio Sainz Diaz at the Laboratory for the Study of Crystallography in Granada, Spain.

This investigation combines two experiments that were part of the payloads of NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour missions STS-118 and STS-123. Both flights delivered their experiments to the International Space Station (ISS), STS 118 in August 2007 and STS 123 in March 2009.

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Worms In Space

This high-flying education effort by Orion’s Quest (OQ) features a science investigation that supports of the research of NASA scientist Dr. Catharine Conley and genetic researcher, Dr. Nate Szewczyk.

The study uses the soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a free-living (non-parasitic) round worm about 1 mm in length as the model organism for the ongoing research that support NASA’s program in the areas of Human Space Exploration and human genetics. Dubbed “CSI-01” this project allows students to participate in meaningful scientific research on gravity-dependent biological processes.

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