Monday, a team of Scouts watched in amazement as the project they had diligently designed and built over the last two years blasted into outer space.
The launch is part of a unique partnership between the Boy Scouts of America Pathway to Adventure Council and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) —a non-profit organization that manages the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS).
The project, now headed for the ISS, is an experiment in DNA mutation. While among the stars, the experiment will test a range of biological samples to see how E. coli cultures mutate in a low-gravity environment.
“At the beginning, it’s just really cool to do something that’s going into outer space,” the team’s mentor Norm McFarland told the Chicago Tribune. “By the end, the Scouts were coming up with their own solutions to problems they were finding.”
In about one month, astronauts aboard the ISS will send the experiment back to Earth, where the Scouts will then compare these cosmic mutations to how the same cultures mutate on Earth.
If the Scouts and scientists find gravitationally-based variances in the mutations, the discovery could carry tremendous implications for medical science, such as new methods for growing tissue, or even fighting cancer.
“It’s been a huge learning experience,” Scout Andrew F., 16, told the Chicago Tribune. “I had never done anything like this.”