With tax year 2013 winding down, many consider last minute charitable contributions as tax deductions. The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP; http://ssep.ncesse.org) is overseen by the  non-profit National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE; http://ncesse.org). Through the end of 2013, all donations to NCESSE will be used exclusively to support the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. All contributions will be used specifically to close budget shortfalls to ensure communities can participate in this program. An explanation –

SSEP is a bold new commercial space venture in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. Since 2010, there have been 8 flight opportunities announced, 28,300 students have been fully immersed in experiment design, 6,430 flight experiment proposals have been submitted by student teams, 93 experiments selected for flight – one for each community program, 58 experiments have flown, 23 are flying December 19, 2013, and 15 will fly next Spring. This is immersion in authentic research to inspire and engage the next generation of researchers. The program embraces a vision for science and STEM education for the future, and is delivering on that vision, but … vision without funding is hallucination.

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, must recover the actual costs for the program (lease of commercial space for the mini-laboratory in the flight payload and aboard ISS, all flight services, program delivery and community support), but also recognizes the significant challenge to a community in securing underwriting in the current financial climate. For a community to participate in SSEP costs $21,500 on a full cost recovery basis. The majority of school districts that put forward superb Implementation Plans for SSEP are simply not in a position to underwrite the program. NCESSE has therefore been fully committed to trying to find funding for any community in the U.S. and Canada interested in participating. We have therefore been allocating substantial internal labor hours for fundraising on behalf of the schools for each of the 8 flight opportunities to date – which is a precedent-setting business model reflective of our dedication to the program, to the next generation of scientists and engineers, and to America’s future through STEM workforce development. We don’t believe in insurmountable hurdles, but rather that success requires organizations to step to the plate in creative new ways.

Our approach is to pull together a consortium of underwriting partners in that community – the Local Partners – each contributing an amount that is budgetarily comfortable to them but still meaningful in terms of reaching the $21.5K target (see, e.g., representative consortia of Local Partners for the Mission 4 to ISS communities.) To date, the Center has found funding for 77 of the 93 SSEP community programs undertaken as part of the first seven SSEP flight opportunities – which is a remarkable statement – and we now have relationships with a network of 300+ local funders across the nation.

However, for each flight opportunity, by the deadline for Letters of Commitment of Funding and just before the start of program operations, our fundraising for a community often falls short by $2,000 – $5,000 dollars. Such a shortfall will ensure that a community will not be able to come aboard, unless NCESSE has unrestricted funds that can be used to fill such shortfalls. Given the nature of Local Partners, any surplus funding potential in one community cannot be transferred to another community since Local Partners are stakeholders in specifically their community, and their funding is therefore restricted for use by that community.

Two SSEP National Partners provide such unrestricted funding: the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and Subaru of America, Inc.. But it is clear that these sources will not be able to fill the shortfalls for all the communities that want to come aboard for Mission 6 and Mission 7 to ISS in 2014. We are trying to get a record 21 communities aboard Mission 6, and we now have 2 months left to secure all required funding before program start on February 24, 2104. The interest in SSEP is dramatically growing.

This end of year appeal is meant to help get communities aboard in 2014. Therefore 100% of all 2013 charitable contributions to NCESSE will be used to close budget shortfalls in communities, and help ensure that hundreds of students in each such community participate in SSEP.

If you would like to make a 2013 charitable contribution, it’s easy. Just go to the SSEP Needs You page at the SSEP website and click on the DONATE NOW button.

Best wishes for the holidays, and stand by for launch of Orb-1 with the 23 SSEP Mission 3b and Mission 4 experiments, currently scheduled for liftoff at 9:19 pm EST, December 19, 2013, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Wallops Island, Virginia.

Real spaceflight all the time.


The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with NanoRacks LLC, working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)Carnegie Institution of Washington, NASA Nebraska Space Grant Consortium, and Subaru of America, Inc., are National Partners on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.


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