As an eighth-grade student in Lafayette, Ind., Techshot co-founder John Vellinger had an idea for a science project -- to send chicken eggs into space to study the effects of microgravity on embryo development. Vellinger, entered his project in a science competition called the Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP), sponsored by NASA and the National Science Teachers Association.
He received the district award three consecutive years and finally became a national winner in the program in 1983.
In 1985, after his freshman year at Purdue University, NASA paired him with Techshot co-founder Mark Deuser who was working as an engineer at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Through a grant from KFC, Deuser and Vellinger set out to develop a flight-ready egg incubator.
By early the next year, their completed "Chix In Space" hardware was launched aboard space shuttle Challenger during its ill-fated STS-51L mission on January 28, 1986. Regrouping after the tragic loss of the orbiter, its crew and the Chix incubator, Deuser and Vellinger founded Techshot and continued developing the payload for a subsequent flight. Together the pair designed, fabricated and integrated the flight hardware, coordinated the project with NASA and assisted the scientific team.
More than three years after the Challenger incident, Chix successfully reached orbit aboard space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-29. The results of the experiment were so significant that the project received worldwide interest from gravitational and space biologists and established a strong reputation for Techshot as an innovative developer of spaceflight hardware.