When Space Shuttle Endeavour launched its final mission on May 16, it carried a science experiment designed by four Saint Mary's County eighth graders.
About 450 teams across the country submitted proposals for a new student spaceflight experiments program to send their projects into space. Only 16 experiments were selected, including Esperanza Middle School's.
The local's student plan? To send a zebra fish into space and see how microgravity would affect the fish's development. If the fish survived, the team wondered if fish farming could be set up in space as a renewable source of protein for the astronauts that would help prevent muscle deterioration.
They sent the zebra fish embryos into space and set up their control embryos back home.
Sixteen days after the shuttle launched, it returned to earth. Unfortunately, the fish didn't survive the trip. A local scientist told them that the embryos would likely only survive for 14 days in the vials.
"I kinda knew the fish were going to die because it was such a long period," said Noah Fletcher, one of the students involved.
Despite the disappointing outcome, all four students said the experience has been inspiring.
"This was life-changing," said Mirelle Patrey, one of the students. "We're working with huge top scientists here."