In early December 2020, SpaceX-21 launched SSEP Mission 13 to the International Space Station, and included in the cargo were two Mission Patches designed by Ector County ISD students Sophia Patino and Amaya Villanueva.
After the flight and a one-month stay on the International Space Station, the patches returned safely to Earth and are now certified as having flown to the ISS. The patches were designed and selected for flight in 2019, however, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the delay of the launch.
Patino, a fifth grader at Milam Fine Arts Magnet Elementary when she created the design, is now going into eighth at Bowie Middle School; and Villanueva, a sophomore in high school at the time of the design, recently graduated from Odessa Collegiate Academy.
On Tuesday, ECISD leaders will host a press event to present the students with the certified patches and give reporters the opportunity to speak with the students and program directors. As one part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) students are invited to create a Mission Patch — a paper 3.5-inch x 3.5-inch square emblem that captures their SSEP experience and exemplifies the ECISD community.
The winning designs are then flown to space as part of the mission payload and returned embossed with a certification that it flew in space. The press event will be held in the ECISD Board Room, 802 N. Sam Houston, at 2:30 p.m.
This opportunity to be involved in the SSEP came about through the work of ECISD’s Innovation Department. The SSEP is about inspiring America’s next generation of scientists and engineers, and engaging entire communities in the process. Student teams proposing real experiments to fly on the International Space Station is the core SSEP activity. But community-wide engagement, and cross-disciplinary learning are also cornerstone objectives for SSEP in the context of the embraced Learning Community Model for STEM education.
ECISD students have now twice designed science projects and mission patches that have been sent to the International Space Station.
A historical note: Mission patches have been part of human spaceflight since the days of Project Mercury in the 1960s. The SSEP Mission Patch competition therefore allows communities to engage in another authentic aspect of the space program, and broadens SSEP to be more appropriately designated as a STEAM education initiative — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.