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Students use STEM to develop space face cream for astronauts

Clarissa Bye, April 30, 2017 6:00PM The Daily Telegraph

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Reading level: red

A GROUP of students are working on a formula for the perfect space face cream for astronauts on the International Space Station.

In a groundbreaking space science project, a team of students from the Sydney suburb of Merrylands are now inventing moisturiser and eye drops to suit the conditions in space, and will present their results to the US space agency NASA later this year.

The Cerdon Catholic College students helped make Australian space history in December, when an unmanned* rocket from Japan transported Australian-designed scientific equipment to the International Space Station.

Along with groups from 60 other Australian high schools, the Sydney students were able to send sensors and software to collect live data for their project, including pressure and humidity* in the orbiting* station.

NASA Science Kids media_cameraStudents Anh Nguyen, Flavia Ching Lu, Jenna Chan and Teresa Tran in the STEM program at Cerdon College. Picture: supplied

The students involved, ranging from year 8 to year 11 girls, were all interested in cosmetics and skin care, as well as hi-tech science like coding and were keen to get involved with the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

When it came to the project, the school’s STEM co-ordinator Andrew Tham said the girls were “lapping it up.”

“It all came from them, they hypothesised* that the dry conditions in the International Space Station might affect eyes and skin,” Mr Tham said.

“They have taken it very seriously and are devoted to working on it.”

He said the scheme, run via Cuberider, a company helping schools design and code experiments tested in space with the help of NASA astronauts on the space station, makes the science “much more real.”

The girls are now crunching* the numbers and contacting doctors and dermatologists* for more advice on designing the optimum astronaut skin cream and eye drops.

In this Jan. 6, 2017 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Peggy Whitson performs a spacewalk during Expedition 50 aboard the International Space Station. According to a report released Wednesday, April 26, 2017, NASA is managing a variety of design and health risks associated with the spacewalking suits used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The suits were developed more than 40 years ago and intended for only 15 years' use. (NASA via AP) media_cameraAstronaut Peggy Whitson performing a spacewalk aboard the International Space Station. Picture: NASA

Year 11 student Anh Nguyen, 16, signed up for the project because she was fascinated by the idea of living in space.

“We discovered that the conditions in the station were not good for skin, the results from the space station showed the average humidity was 23 while the normal range might be from 30 to 40,” she said.

“We are also investigating how frequently the astronauts should be applying it.”

She said the humidity had to be kept low because of the electronic equipment in the station.

Teacher Mr Tham said STEM was a new stand-alone subject at the school, combining maths, science, technology and engineering.

“It’s all about making things, coming up with working solutions,” he said.

“It’s the way of the future.”

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unmanned: with no people on board

humidity: how much water is in the air

orbiting: revolving around

hypothesised: proposed a reason behind

crunching: processing and trying to understand

dermatologists: skin doctors



Activity 1. Summarising

A summary is a shortened version of something that includes only the most important details. Read through the article and carefully highlight only the key details. Now use the information you have highlighted to write a short paragraph summarising the story.


Use your imagination to come up with 10 possible names for the space cream the students in the article have been working on. Choose your best one and design a logo using it.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English

Activity 2: Space hypothesis

The students hypothesised that the dry conditions in the International Space Station might affect eyes and skin and are working on inventing a skin cream and eye drops to help.

Once the students have formulated their products they will need to experiment to find out how well they work.

Explain how you think they could test the cream and eye drops.

Think about how they would know if the products are working, if the products work for everyone and how they could measure the results.


Think of a unique product that you think would be useful on the space station. Draw it and explain why it is needed.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: Science and English


(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)

Spacey Words

Choose 10-15 ‘spacey’ words from the article. If you can think of others, include them in your list.

Then individually or with a partner, write a short paragraph about using this face cream remembering to include all the vocabulary from your list.

(Approx. 20 minutes)

Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP

Activity provided by Andrell Education







Extra Reading in space