Three Grade 6 students from Manitoba's Interlake region have received the results of a cancer research project that's been over a year and a half in the making.
The Brant-Argyle School students sent test tubes containing yeast cells and green tea to the International Space Station in January in an effort to study the anti-oxidant effects of the tea.
Their experiment has now landed back on Earth, and the students looked over the special delivery at Winnipeg’s Magellan Aerospace centre on Monday afternoon.
"There was yeast and green tea, and there was just yeast with saline, and we want to know if the … green tea will protect it," said Ryan Petricig, one of the students.
It's the first time NASA has accepted an elementary school-level project from Canada to go on board the ISS.
“It’s taken them in new directions and it’s just amazing to see,” said their teacher, Leslie Nesbitt Fuerst. “What it’s done for them — that’s just very, very rewarding for me as a teacher.”
The students want to see whether or not green tea had an effect on the yeast cells, which were exposed to cosmic radiation.
Yeast cells have some similarities to human cells, and the goal of the project is to see if anti-oxidants could help fight cancer in humans.
"Cancer has gotten really bad over the years and we really wanted to stop it," said Ethan Enns, one of the students.
The contents of the just-landed test tubes will now grow for three weeks at CancerCare Manitoba's laboratory before the students can see the results.
"They're going to actually count the colonies to see which ones were damaged and which ones were not damaged — or maybe they were all damaged. That's what we don't know," said Maria Nickel, the Interlake director of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program.
"We're hoping that the green tea protected it, but you just don't know until you actually start the counting."
Fuerst said the experiment has really helped to spur an interest in science among the students.
“It’s been just phenomenal – just even seeing the reaction of the kids and where it’s taken them,” she said. “A couple of them were interested in science to begin with, and now they’re blown away and they want to be scientists.”