CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBS) When Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off and marked the last and final chapter in the shuttle program, a science experiment by some Chicago Public Schools students was onboard.

Eren F. and Eric C., who are in the 5th grade at Skinner West Elementary School at 111 S. Throop St., beat out 76 other teams of students to win their project a spot onboard Atlantis.

Their teacher, Kori Milroy, was at the Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch Friday morning, along with Eren and her family. Eric watched from Chicago.

“We are really excited,” Milroy said in a telephone interview on the CBS 2 Morning News. “We are standing here at KARS Park on Kennedy Space Center property; we are actually watching the launch from the place where NASA employees watch the launch. We’re very excited.”

Eren and Eric’s experiment is titled, “Will Microgravity Affect the Development of Goldfish?” It was among 77 proposals for a microgravity experiment design contest at the school, which were judged by a panel representing such institutions as Fermilab, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the Adler Planetarium.

Those judges narrowed down the proposals to the top three, and NASA chose Eren and Eric’s project as the winner, Milroy said.

The experiment involves sending a fertilized goldfish egg into space, and determining the effects of microgravity on the growth of the embryo. Once Atlantis returns, the vial holding the as-yet-unhatched goldfish will be returned to Skinner West, so the students can study the results and draw their conclusions.

With a grant from Motorola and a donation of goldfish from PetSmart, Skinner West teamed up with the SSEP program, which coordinates with NASA to send students science experiments into space, CPS explains.

And it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, since this was the last liftoff before the Shuttle Program is retired permanently.

Atlantis launched at 10:26 a.m. Chicago time for Mission STS-135. Cmdr. Christopher Ferguson, pilot Douglas Hurley, Sandra Magnus, and flight engineer Rex Waldheim are flying to the International Space Station on a 12-day mission, CBS News reports.

When they return, the 30-year-old shuttle program will be history.

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