Chicago kids' science experiment traveling on Atlantis

July 25, 2011 5:55:52 AM PDT
Some 5th graders at a West Side elementary school had a special interest in the final launch of NASA's Atlantis space shuttle Friday. They have something traveling on board.

Skinner science teacher Kori Milroy and one of her students, Eren Fitzgerald, were in Florida to watch the launch. Fitzgerald's science partner, Eric Chen, watched the launch here in Chicago. The fifth graders came up with the winning experiment that involves fertilizing a goldfish egg, then watching the embryo grow in space. That experiment is traveling into space on the Atlantis.

Fitzgerald says she was inspired by Chicagoan Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. She says she has dreamed about going into space since age two. The student and her teacher were over the moon about experiencing the launch in person.

"It is awe inspiring to imagine these pioneers up there carrying our precious cargo for our science experiment all the way into orbit. It was very emotional and wonderful," said Milroy.

Back in Chicago, at the Adler Planetarium, future scientists, engineers and astrophysicists witnessed the final space shuttle mission into orbit. For some, it was an out of this world opportunity; for others, it was an emotional experience.

"It was really moving. I was almost going to cry. It is so sad since it's the last one," said Ashley Hall.

Dirk Busse traveled from out of town because he wanted his children to see the historic launch.

"Quite exciting to see it live and follow the launch, it was quite memorable," said Busse.

This was a first for many of the students but the last of the space shuttle missions. It was bittersweet feeling for those want to study and research space technology.

"I actually really liked it. And I think even though they are not going to launch more shuttles, there will be further advances in orbiters and things like that," said Jeffrey Reed.

"We can look forward to the next chapter which is turning over to the private sector and concentrating on the big rocket that will take astronauts even further," said Michelle Nichols-Yehling, Adler Planetarium.

Atlantis will deliver supplies to the space station. But the main goal of the mission is to test a robotic space craft refueling system something that's never been done before.

The Atlantis is scheduled to return to earth July 15.

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