JOHN DAY – T-minus 3 days.
As of Wednesday, that’s the countdown to launch for a spacecraft that will carry a Grant County science project into space.
The SpaceX-7 mission is scheduled to lift off this Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, bound for the International Space Station.
The unmanned craft will carry 27 student experiments in all. The local project was designed by four Grant Union Junior/Senior High students — Zack Dieter, Elijah Humbird, Duane Stokes, Dante Valentine and Cauy Weaver. They were ninth-graders when they teamed up last fall to compete for a spot on the space shot.
The competition is an ongoing promotion by the national Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, an effort to encourage real-world science and engineering education.
In all, 33 teams from across the county entered the local contest, organized by Grant Union science teacher Sonna Smith. The top three advanced to a review by a national science panel, with just one winning a berth on the spaceflight.
The team’s entry focused on how microgravity might affect variation of protein structures. The experiment looks at the structure of a protein in E. coli, and factors that could encourage “misfolded proteins” — a possible cause of slow-developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, among others.
In a related contest this spring, two students — Jasmine Martin, a seventh-grader at Grant Union, and Ben Henry, a sixth-grader at Humbolt Elementary — designed space patches representative of Mission 7.
Awaiting the craft’s arrival at the Space Station is an international crew of astronauts with extensive science, medical and engineering backgrounds. The roster includes three Russian astronauts, including the station commander, Gennady Padalka; one Japanese astronaut; and two Americans, Kjell Lindgren and Scott Kelly.
The crew will conduct experiments during the estimated 42 days the payload is expected to remain on the station.
For updated information on the mission, including a countdown clock and live stream from the space station, visit http://bit.ly/1J8SZ8N online.