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On Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, SpaceX hopes to upend the economics of space travel, by landing the first stage of a rocket intact on a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean.SPACEX/The New York Times

A science project dreamed up by a group of students in central British Columbia that was lost when a rocket exploded on a launching pad almost two months ago is about to get a second chance at space travel.

Four boys from McGowan Park Elementary school in Kamloops won a contest to have their experiment join 17 other student projects from across North America on a trip to the International Space Station.

But the amateur experiments – along with a payload of supplies destined for the space station – were destroyed on Oct. 28 when a NASA-contracted rocket exploded in a spectacular fireball in eastern Virginia.

Paul Hembling, project co-ordinator, said he's crossing his fingers that the students' experiment finally launches with all the others early Tuesday morning on a SpaceX resupply mission to the space station.

He'll be awake at 3:20 a.m. local time to watch a live feed from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and expects the students will do the same.

"I would be surprised if any of them aren't [awake]," he said with a chuckle. "You're a Grade 8 boy, and your experiment that's going to space has already blown up once and now it's supposed to launch again. I don't think they're going to sleep."

The Kamloops students' experiment examines how the zero-gravity environment of space affects the growth of crystals. The students prepared silicon tubes containing solutions that, when mixed, cause crystals to form. Once the tubes are on the space station, astronauts will remove small clips keeping the solutions apart.

When the tubes return, the students will analyze the crystals and compare them to crystals grown on Earth.

The boys attended McGowan Park when they submitted the project, but they are now in Grade 8 and are no longer in elementary school.

The local school district in Kamloops raised $25,000 to secure a spot on the mission. Student groups within the city then competed to determine which project would be selected. Mr. Hembling said he was relieved the students were asked to rebuild the project without being asked to front new costs.

The rocket involved in the failed October launch was Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket. No one was hurt in the explosion, but it damaged a state-owned launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Officials hope to have the launch pad repaired and ready for testing late next year.

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