Three sixth-graders from Manitoba's Interlake region watched their experiment blast off into space today, after many months of hard work and some delays.
Avery Good, Ryan Petricig, and Ethan Enns from Brant-Argyle School near Stonewall, Man., jumped and cheered as the rocket carrying their cancer experiment lifted off on Thursday afternoon.
"It was a jaw-dropping moment," Avery said.
"It was mind-blowing," said Ethan.
"Like a dream come true," said Ryan.
The Orbital-1 Antares rocket, which successfully launched from Wallops Island in Virginia, is transporting the trio's experiment to the International Space Station, along with several other experiments and various cargo.
The students have been studying and conducting experiments in their school's lab for the past 1½ years, all on their own time, to figure out how to protect astronauts from cancer caused by radiation.
Specifically, they want to know if green tea can reduce the risk of developing cancer, especially among astronauts.
Their experiment involves injecting green tea into a yeast solution, which stands in for human tissue. The idea is to see if the tea prevents cell mutation in space.
It's the first time NASA has accepted an elementary school-level project from Canada to go on board the ISS.
The students had to contend with 11 launch delays since their project was selected, including two delays in the past week alone and three in December.
Finally, on Thursday, they and fellow Brant-Argyle students watched the liftoff on the big screen at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg.
"It's wow. Just truly wow!" exclaimed Maria Nickel, who is the Interlake director of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program.
Avery said she and her classmates were inspired by Terry Fox "and we kind of wanted to carry on his dream to try to cure cancer."