Three budding scientists from Manitoba's Interlake have the results of an experiment that was more than two years in the making and went all the way to space.
The trio from Brant-Argyle School in Argyle, Man., had yeast cell samples sent to the International Space Station in January to see if green tea could help prevent cancer.
The results capped off 2½ years of work for the students, who are now in Grade 7. It took 1½ years before their samples were launched into space.
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Ryan Petricig, Ethan Enns and Avery Good analyzed the samples when they came back from the ISS in March, and on Thursday they shared their findings with their fellow students.
"We compared four yeast samples. Two went to space: one was green tea, and one was just saline. Two samples stayed at CancerCare," Enns explained at a school assembly.
Their research showed that green tea only slightly protected the yeast cultures from cosmic radiation.
"The results, they were amazing because they worked," said Good. "They weren't what we actually expected, but they were good for us for being in Grade 7."
The trio wanted to know if 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 antioxidants could help fight cancer in humans.
Inspiring more research
The Brant-Argyle group's results leave the door open for more in-depth experiments, and officials say the students' work has inspired children across Canada.
The project marked the first time NASA accepted an elementary school-level project from Canada to go on board the ISS.
Maria Nickel, the Interlake director of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, said schools in other provinces have their own space-bound experiments in the works.
"B.C.'s got an experiment coming up at the end of this month on mission 6. Mission 8 coming up — Alberta, it looks like, is going to be on that mission. So it's now starting to trickle across Canada, and that's what we want for our kids," she said.
"We want our kids to be more engaged in science and to be excited about it, and this one great way of doing it."
Their teacher, Leslie Nesbitt Fuerst, said Good, Petricig and Enns have grown and learned a lot during the project.
"They will go places; I know that for sure. They're very driven children. They're very smart," she said.
All three students say they'll continue down the science path, with Petricig said he wants to "be a scientist when I get older because I know that I can do that stuff now."
Said Enns,"Do whatever you want. Whatever you think, it doesn't matter, just get all the research you can, just go do it."