08:56 AM

N.C. Cadet to See Science Experiment Launched to Intl. Space Station

Capt. Lynne T. Albert
Public Affairs Officer
North Carolina Wing

Cadet Airman Graham Shunk of the North Carolina Wing’s Orange County Composite Squadron is scheduled to see a science experiment sent to the International Space Station.

Shunk’s venture began at a space camp called "Higher Orbits: Go for Launch!" at the local county library. The camp involved activities, videos and astronaut presentations. More importantly, teams of camp participants had the chance to design and present a space project that, upon winning the competition, would be flown up to the ISS.

Shunk was the leader of “Team Orion,” which consisted of five high school students.

The five worked together designing an experiment using a radiotrophic fungus. Radiotrophic fungi are fungi that appear to perform radiosynthesis – that is, to use the pigment melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy for growth.

The experiment’s goal is to attempt to lower radiation levels in space by using C. Shaerospermum, a type of radiotrophic fungus, to feed off and thus lower the levels of radiation. The experiment was designed to fit within a 4-by-4-inch by 4-inch cube called the Tango lab.

Team Orion won the camp competition and went on to win successive levels of competition as well.

If everything goes as scheduled, the experiment will be flown to the ISS on rocket mission SpaceX CRS-16 on Nov. 29.

A scholarship is also associated with winning the competition, and each team member will be flown along with a parent to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to witness the launch. Their hotel, food and other expenses will be paid.

Shunk hopes to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy, become a pilot and ultimately become an astronaut.