John Zarrella is CNN's Miami correspondent. He has been covering space shuttle launches since 1984 and today, he'll be at the Kennedy Space Center as Commander Mark Kelly, husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, launches the Endeavour into space for the last time.
Science was not on the top of sixteen-year-old Mikayla Diesch’s list of careers. “I thought I was gonna be President about a year ago,” Mikayla told me as we stood about five miles from the Shuttle Endeavour sitting on the launch pad.
Quite a bit changed last year for Mikayla and her fourteen year old sister Shannon. They won a Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation competition that challenges students to come up with commercially viable solutions to real world problems. The girls’ award came in the nutrition category for developing a nutrition bar. It’s made of oats mainly and, “cranberries, apple pieces, cinnamon and a few nuts like almonds and cashews,” Mikayla says.
At first, Mikayla wasn’t too excited about the project. Sister Shannon talked her into it. “I was like, it sounds fun. It’s different,” Mikayla says, “But, I don’t know if I really want to do it. She’s like, ‘come on you can do it,’ and then we did it. Like, I decided ok I’m gonna do this and it was awesome.”
But, they did the work themselves, spending many hours in the kitchen. “Mostly it was just trial and error,” Shannon says, “We’d try putting some, a ton of stuff together and that would taste gross. So, we’d go back and change something and then it would taste gross too. Then we’d go back and try it again and that would taste better so it was just basically trial and error the whole time.
The cranberries were tough. “We tried getting smaller cranberries that didn’t have so much sweetness in them and that was definitely better,” Shannon said. Her sister added, “We ended up with cranberries, but not juice infused cause when you did juice infused, you’d take a bite and it would be a gusher. You get a bunch of sweet, sticky sweet cranberry. It wasn’t very good with the rest of the bar.”
After their bar won, NASA took a look at it. The bar was put through testing at the Johnson Space Center in Houston food laboratory and was approved for flight. The bars are being taken into space for the Endeavour astronauts to eat as a nutritional supplement.
For Mikayla, there's no more talk of being President, “I kind of got more interested in science and math and realized it’s really important and there’s kind of a lack of people pushing kids, and that is really important.” The girls say they are considering marketing their bar to raise money for school programs.
Shannon and Mikayla were at the Kennedy Space Center last month when the Endeavour launch was delayed. They’re back. No way they were going to miss a chance to see something they made fly in space. Shannon is pretty excited, “Something I made is on there. That’s just so awesome.”
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