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Boy Scouts Launch Science Project To International Space Station

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Boy Scout troop from the northwest suburbs got a chance to see their dreams and more lift-off into space on Monday.

Andrew Frank, 16, and several other scouts from Troop 209 in Palatine were at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and other members of their troop were at a watch-party in Arlington Heights, as a Space X Falcon 9 rocket took off, carrying the scouts' science experiment to the International Space Station.

"We were all counting down with the clock as it launched off. It was really a big sense of excitement with the whole team," Frank said minutes after the rocket headed into orbit. "Everyone kind of cheered and threw their arms up in the air when it actually launched. It was really cool."

Adult project lead Norm McFarland said the experiment was designed to see whether an organism – in this case, E. coli – mutates at a different rate in low gravity.

"We think there could be implications here for either tissue growth or maybe something in cancer research," McFarland said.

Frank and his team of about a dozen scouts put in more than 5,000 hours of work on the experiment before launching it into space.

"When we get our data back, we're going to have to go through all the pictures, all the data. We're going to have to analyze it, and put together our report," he said.

McFarland said it will take at least three months to analyze all the data once the 24-day experiment on the station has been completed. He said the experiment will result in 6,200 pictures, each containing 70 pieces of biological information.

Frank said he and his fellow scouts likely have checked off a number of requirements for several merit badges by working on the experiment.

McFarland said the project began two years ago, with leaders suggesting the idea of trying to get an experiment in space. He said 84 suggested experiments were whittled down to two that were merged into the experiment that is now up in space.

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