King's College, London, 11th - 15th July 2016

ISSET’s Mission Discovery programme is a great opportunity for ordinary students to do something extraordinary.

Secondary school students from years 9 - 13 carry out biomedical research with NASA Astronauts, rocket scientists and trainers for a week at one of the best biomedical universities in the world.

In teams, students will propose an idea for your own biomedical experiment; the best idea will be launched into space and carried out by Astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

With help from brilliant NASA role models, Astronauts, Astronaut trainers, NASA personnel, scientists and engineers; students will learn about space and STEM through a variety of exhilarating hands-on activities, based on themes such as:

  • NASA leadership and team building
  • How space exploration benefits life on Earth
  • Experiencing the environment of space
  • Looking at different kinds of experiment & what makes them great
  • How you succeed in your dreams and ambitions
  • The price for Mission Discovery at King's is £385. Limited accommodation is also available for an additional £355, which would bring the total to £740.
King's College London, 2016 Brochure

The Team

  • Mike Foale

    NASA Astronaut & ISS Commander

    Mission Discoveries VIP astronaut, Mike Foale heads up the Kings College London team. Mike is the most experienced British born astronaut in the history of human space travel having flown on 6 Space Shuttle missions, a Soyuz and commanded the International Space Stations. He was the first Briton to perform a spacewalk, during which he saved the Hubble Space Telescope.

    Why King's College, London

    King’s College London is one of the top 30 universities in the world and the fourth oldest in England. A research led university based in the heart of London, King’s has nearly 23,000 students from 140 countries.

    King’s has one of the largest Medical Schools in Europe and is one of the leading research Universities for biomedical research. It offers degrees in medicine and a wide range of biomedical sciences.

    The Guy’s Campus at King’s combines a historic campus environment with state of the art research facilities.

    Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences (CHAPS)

    CHAPS is focused on human physiology its adaptation in health and disease. CHAPS is staffed by biomedical scientists who specialise in skeletal muscle, ageing, development, exercise, pain, rehabilitationand the physiology of novel and extreme environments.

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    2014 winning experiments (Valparaiso University, USA):

    This experiment will examine the 3D applications of electrowetting in microgravity.

    2014 winning experiments (Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, USA):

    This experiment aims to look at luciferase (the enzyme that gives fireflies their ‘glow’) activity in microgravity in a set up very similar to a ‘glow stick’.

    2014 winning experiments (Renfrewshire):

    1. Treatment of red-eye (conjunctivitis) in space: Astronauts are required to spend 2 weeks in isolation before any launch to the ISS to prevent them from catching any illness and to allow any illnesses that they have already caught to transpire. As commercial space flight starts to become a reality, the possibility of putting people in quarantine for such a long period will become practically impossible. Conjunctivitis has approximately a 2 day incubation period in humans. It is possible that when commercial space flights increase in length, such illnesses with short incubation periods will require treatment on board the spacecraft. This experiment will therefore determine the effectiveness of treatments for conjunctivitis in microgravity.

    2. Carbon dioxide consumption by cacti in microgravity: Elevated carbon dioxide levels are a potential problem in space. Although plants can readily consume CO2, they are notoriously difficult to grow in microgravity due to fluidic problems. Cacti require very little water and so are predicted to have a much better survival rate. This experiment will see whether their rate of CO2 consumption in space can also be maintained.

    2014 winning experiments (King’s College London):

    1. The effect of microgravity on motor function of Drosophila with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms: Feany & Bender (2000) first reported a model of Parkinson’s disease in Drosphila which has enabled the study of this disease in a species which can be easily manipulated without the same ethical considerations as models in rodents and higher species. This experiment will determine the impact of microgravity on the symptoms of this disease, as related to motor function.

    2. Chemical reactions in Alzheimer’s disease in microgravity: This experiment will compare the rate of amyloid beta-protein aggregation on earth versus microgravity. Aggregation of this protein is considered to be a major contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and further understanding of the nature of its aggregation is of potential benefit for future treatments.

    2013 winning experiments (King’s College London):

    1. Daphnia magna in space: Daphnia will produce sexually or asexually depending on the nature of their environment. Under stressful conditions, they will resort to sexual reproduction. The aim of this study is to determine whether the microgravity environment of the ISS is stressful enough to initiate sexual reproductive activity through analysis of eggs.

    2. Effect of plant steroids on plant growth in microgravity: Plants are notoriously difficult to grow in microgravity, but they will provide an essential food source for long-term space missions. This experiment will determine whether plant steroids can potentiate their growth in a microgravity environment.

    3. Saprophytic degradation of food in space: Saprophytes (including many types of yeast) are capable of degrading food substances. As food waste is a potential problem for long term space missions, this experiment will determine whether the saprophyte, Kazachstania telluris, can degrade food in microgravity.

    2012 winning experiments (King’s College London):

    Final report provided in addition to article in Times Educational Supplement.


    Mission Discovery is an international programme, which provides an opportunity for young people to work with inspiring role models. It is an ideal programme for students with an interest in pursuing a career in science, biomedicine or technology. However, it is not only for those considering a scientific or medical career – it can give pupils valuable life skills and the confidence to follow their dreams. Mission Discovery has been running since 2012 hosting events in 4 different countries, we hope to expand on this year after year, giving ordinary students the chance to achieve something extraordinary.

    If you would like to work with Astronauts and NASA leaders hosting your own Mission Discovery, please contact Ross Barber on: +44 (0)29 2071 0295, or via email at


    Mission Discovery on NASA TV! - 26th February, 2014

    Before becoming ISSET's US Director, Michelle was a Senior Lead NASA Astronaut Trainer and instructor, International Space Station Flight Controller, a Space Operations Planner and a Lead Planner for the NASA's Extreme Environment Operation. Mission Discovery is just one of the multitude of global training programmes she has been a part of, spanning the USA, Europe, India, Russia and Japan. In the video, Michelle mentions that the students' experiments have been completed and have now returned to earth for the students to analyse their results! As seen in previous posts, we launched the winning experiments from Mission Discovery King's College to the International Space Station this January, which was the first time EVER that British schoolchildren have had their ideas enacted on the ISS. We will be reporting shortly on the outcome of the experiments, so keep your eyes peeled!

    Scientists to help out with Mission Discovery's Daphnia experiment! - 5th February, 2014

    Scientists at Birmingham University have heard about our winners of Mission Discovery 2013 at King's College London, and have offered to lend a hand with their experiments! The winning team, comprising of students from Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg, Tonyrefail and Aberdare, created an experiment that observes the mating habits of Daphnia magna (a type of Cladocera, commonly known as water fleas) under the stress of micro-gravity.

    The experiment will be launched to the International Space Station later this year! The exoskeleton of the crustaceans is transparent, which makes it easy to see their organs working as they are studied. What makes these water-fleas so interesting is that they will usually reproduce asexually, similarly to many plants, but in extreme circumstances the female will lay eggs that must be fertilised by the male.

    Experiments Launch to the ISS - 13th January, 2014

    After a series of unavoidable delays since November, the Orb-1 rocket, carrying the first ever experiments by UK school students to be launched into space, finally left NASA's Wallops Island in Virginia! The launch is the first of eight commercial flights arranged by rocket company Orbital to the ISS. "We're posturing ourselves to hit our stride with all of our new commercial cargo vehicles in the 2014 time period," said NASA's deputy space station program manager Dan Hartman. "Orb-1 will be the first, we'll get into some SpaceX, and basically kind of alternate back and forth between Orbital and SpaceX throughout the year. So we're really looking to hit our stride in 2014 to meet our (resupply) needs."

    Frank Culbertson, Vice-President of Orbital, said that a booming commercial launch industry will support scientific research by making it "more readily accessible to people on Earth", because "they can participate in what's going on in space".

    Mission Discovery joins other programmes across the globe being included in the push to make space research and exploration more available to the public. Orb-1 reached the ISS yesterday morning, and here is a clip of the Canadarm guiding it into the docking bay.

    Mission Discovery students appear on Newsround! - 8th January, 2014

    Yesterday, two of the Mission Discovery students, Deanna Middleton and Siobhan Gnanakulendran, were interviewed by CBBC's Newsround about their experiments being launched to the International Space Station!

    The winning teams (comprising of 12 students overall) will be the first UK school students EVER to have had their experiments performed on the ISS, and have been inundated with requests to appear across the news channels!

    Here's a clip of the students in action; The launch is finally going ahead at 18:30 GMT from NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility. Don't forget there will be extensive coverage of tonight's rocket launch on Sky News at 13:45 and ITV News at 10 featuring interviews with the teams at Kings College London, and a live stream of the launch will be available on our website soon!