Eight Brookings-Harbor students have been offered the opportunity of a lifetime.

Later this month, they will board a plane headed for Cape Canaveral, Fla., to watch the launch of the space shuttle Endeavor.

The students will visit the launch site in conjunction with the 2001: A space science odyssey project they are currently conducting with NASA.

Three students chosen to represent Brookings-Harbor High School are: Adam Van Cleave, Samantha Crane and Kevin Shepherd.

The five students selected to represent Azalea Middle School are: Alyssa McClelland-Bane, Brian Wiggins, Skyler Shuford, Zyan Silver and Barbara Nelson.

The trip was made possible by grants from the Curry Coastal Pilot, which is sponsoring the Azalea students, and Daryn J. Farmer of State Farm Insurance, who is sponsoring the high school students.

The candidates were selected by a non-school-related professional panel, and had to meet certain prerequisites. They had to have a minimum 3.0 GPA from the first quarter grade report for 2001-02, and no major disciplinary referrals.

The qualified students were required to complete an essay, poem, slide show or video tape conveying their fascination with space.

The selected students were chosen for their ability to demonstrate a high skill level in science, language arts and public speaking because they will be expected to share their Florida experience with Brookings students upon their return.

The space shuttle Endeavor will be carrying mustard seeds that will be planted on the International Space Station in conjunction with a science project being conducted by Azalea teacher Cathy Watson and high school teacher Megan McCarthy.

The students will grow their own mustard plants at school in a special growth chamber donated by NASA that will keep the plants in a controlled environment. Students at selected schools in San Diego, Fort Collims, Colo., Native American reservations and South Africa also will cultivate plants in identical growth chambers under the exact same conditions.

The students will be able to communicate with each other and with the astronauts on the space station daily via the Internet. They will compare their observations on the plants progress with each other, and expose the similarities or differences between the plants grown on earth and the plants grown in the zero-gravity environment on the space station.

All of the seeds used in the project come from the same mustard plant previously cultivated on the space station. Mustard plants usually grow tall and thin; the plants in space turned out thick and vine-like, creeping along the ground. Now, the students will be able to see how the offspring from that plant will behave back on earth.

The astro-culture space experiment will also teach the students to build the plant growth chambers and will engage math, statistics and language arts skills.

The experiment is a joint venture of NASA, the MindShare Institute based in Fort Collins, and Innerlink, Inc., based in Lancaster, Pa.

Brookings students were included in the project through a donation from the Tommy E. Short Charitable Foundation. Tommy E. Short, a former Brookings student and founder of the Foundation, said he wanted to do something for his alumni.

Darrell Erb, dean of students at Azalea and board member for the Foundation, said the competition among students hoping to go to Florida was intense.

The selection committee had a hard time selecting candidates out of the pool, he said.

All of the students who stepped up to the plate and entered the competition showed a lot of courage.