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The 'Marfa Martians' Invade Texas Capitol, Are Recognized ​For NASA Experiment

Marfa Martians (from left to right) Colette Fowlkes, Daniela Fernandez, Madison Cash, Ashley Marquez, Mabel Melgaard, and Charlotte Browning. (Sally Beauvais / Marfa Public Radio)

By Becky Fogel, Texas Standard, and Marfa Public Radio

The Marfa Martians — a team of fourth, fifth and sixth-grade girls from Marfa Elementary School — were recognized in the Texas House and Senate Monday for winning a national contest to get an experiment they designed onto the International Space Station.

Getting to the State Capitol -- and eventually, outer space -- has been a journey more than 6 months in the making. First, the Martians won their school-wide competition. Then, in late 2018, their proposal was chosen by scientists in D.C. to be tested aboard the International Space Station. Their project, dubbed “eradicating bacteria in microgravity,” is one of 41 projects from across the United States accepted by the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program this school year. More than 23,000 students entered the contest nationwide.

Since it was founded in 2010, only one percent of projects have been sent into space.

Rep. Poncho Nevarez introduced the House Resolution Monday morning, recognizing the students’ achievement. The Eagle Pass Democrat represents pockets of far West Texas, including Marfa.

“These girls are very talented,” Nevarez told House members Monday. “They’re going to do big things. They’re here today with us, so give them a big warm welcome from their Capitol – these girls, the Marfa Martians from Marfa, Texas.”

The resolution calls the Martians a "great pride to their families, school and community," calling for their "hard work and ingenuity" worthy of special recognition.

The group of 10- and 11-year-old girls --- 4th graders Madison Cash, Daniela Fernandez, Colette Fowlkes and Mabel Melgaard; 5th grader Charlotte Browning; and 6th grader Ashley Marquez -- were recently recognized for their work in a CBS News segment.

The experiment is designed to be done in microgravity conditions, like in space. Specifically, the team wants to look at how scientists on the ISS could more effectively control bacteria in their living quarters.