Young scientists hope to bring oxygen to space - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Young scientists hope to bring oxygen to space

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A group of young Montana scientists are hoping to create oxygen in space.

The project supervisor says the idea is simple, but the restrictions are complex. "If this works correctly, it'll allow people on the space center to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen which will keep the international space center from having to bring up so much oxygen to the space center," Rocky Mountain College Professor, Andy Wildenberg.

To some people, algae is that goopy green stuff we see growing in water, but for these Billings Central High School grads it's the key to their success. Algae takes carbon dioxide and turns it into oxygen so the group is trying to create a small but durable device to help algae grow. It seems simple, but growing algae in liquid form in outer space, is out of the question. So, that's where these young scientists put their expertise to work. "If you're looking for a question you have to find the answer to that question, and you can't just look it up. There are no resources and no glossary to find the answers you're looking for," Kylee Hraban, Scientific project organizer said.

Instead of water, the group is turning to Agar. It's a jelly-like material used instead of liquid in outer space. Project designer, Nathan Heldt, like the idea so much the device has the same name. "It's very exciting. I like the design aspect of it, because I'm going into Architecture. So, I got to try out my design abilities and see how far I can get with something," Heldt said.

To test it, the group gets to send the Agar to the International Space Station in April, but it must be small, self contained, and durable. "During any kind of launch into space you are going to be undergoing a lot of Gs and a lot of forces. So what I'm doing right now is trying to make sure our electronics can withstand that much pressure and force," Electrical Designer; James Diltz said.

The group said they still have a long way to go before working out the kinks, but so far they're optimistic it'll work. Scientists hope this alternative will be more cost effective for NASA. You can contribute by sending a check to the Computer Science Department at Rocky Mountain College. The team still needs about 5,000 dollars.

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