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Brevard students sent horseshoe crab blood to outer space. Here’s why:

The Bacteria boys open their experiment that went to space at Pinecrest Academy Space Coast. The students sent horseshoe crab blood and E. coli to the International Space Station.
Marian Summerall
/
WMFE
The Bacteria Boys open their experiment that went to space at Pinecrest Academy Space Coast. The students sent horseshoe crab blood and E. coli to the International Space Station.

After six weeks in space, a science experiment conducted by a group of eighth graders from Brevard is now back on earth and back in the classroom.

The group of four boys, Liam Hauser, Eric DiStasi, Evan Ireland and Luke Costa, call themselves the Bacteria Boys.

Late last month, the Pinecrest Academy Space Coast students gathered in their teacher’s classroom to open their experiment that they recently got back from NASA after sending it into space.

“Just by looking at it, it looks like we got what we wanted, it looks like it works,” said Liam Hauser. “And now next we have to look under microscopes, analyze in detail, get every detail out of this. And I would say I'm really excited for what's next.”

The group sent horseshoe crab blood and E.coli to space with the goal of finding out if the horseshoe crab blood acts the same as it does here on Earth while in orbit. On the ground, the substance can detect the presence of bacteria or endotoxins in pharmaceutical products.

A horseshoe crab plush sits on top of a desk where the Bacteria Boys have their experiment in a classroom at Pinecrest Academy Space Coast.
Marian Summerall
/
WMFE
A horseshoe crab plush sits on top of a desk where the Bacteria Boys have their experiment in a classroom at Pinecrest Academy Space Coast.

Eric DiStasi said that while their experiment was in space, they kept busy in the classroom.

“When we launched the experiment, and it went on the ISS, we conducted the same experiment at the same time,” DiStasi said. “So when it came back down to earth, we could test them to see if there were any differences in the two.”

Out of this world education

The experiment is part of theStudent Spaceflight Experiment Program. The program partners with the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education to inspire the next generation.

The pharmaceutical company, Charles River, supplied the boys with the horseshoe crab blood. The students used an extract of the blood called limulus amebocyte lysate, or LAL, in a mixture tube with dried E. coli in their experiment.

A future in space

Consuelo Praetorius is the STEM director at Pinecrest and acted as a mentor for the Bacteria Boys. Praetorius said her goal is to only guide her students and that the bacteria boys led the way.

“It was such a moving experience just to watch these young men find success, find success in their academics, find success in something that they take ownership of that they created,” Praetorius said.

The Bacteria Boys stand next to a old photo of themselves at Pinecrest Academy Space Coast. From left to right is Eric Distasi, Luke Costa, Liam Hauser, and Evan Ireland.
Marian Summerall
/
WMFE
The Bacteria Boys stand next to a old photo of themselves at Pinecrest Academy Space Coast. From left to right is Eric Distasi, Luke Costa, Liam Hauser, and Evan Ireland.

She is extremely proud of her students and is honored to be working as an educator at Pinecrest.

“I see each one of them being a success in the future in a STEM field,” Praetorius said. “I am really hoping that one of them becomes an astronaut in the future and actually goes into space to conduct these astronaut experiments.”

While most middle school students aren’t sending things to space, bacteria boy member Luke Costa said anyone can do what his group did.

“You have got to experiment, and you want to do it, do it,” Costa said. “And don't be afraid of it, because it works out. You got a future for yourself.”

Marian is a multimedia journalist at WMFE 90.7 working as a reporter and producer for the 'Are We There Yet?' space podcast.
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