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This northern Ontario family will watch their DNA launch into space

After a couple of postponements, Victoria Lehto and her dad Ryan are hoping the mission happens on schedule on Jan. 8

THUNDER BAY — If seven-year-old Victoria Lehto grows up to become a scientist, she might find herself reflecting often on an event that will have happened in Florida on Jan. 8, 2024.

Barring an unexpected delay, at 2:18 AM EST the Thunder Bay child's DNA will be sent into deep space aboard a rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center.

It's believed this will make her the youngest person ever to have their DNA go that far from Earth – up to 300-million kilometres away.

The mission was originally targeted for last year, but wound up being postponed a couple of times.

The Celestis Enterprise flight will take place on the United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan Centaur rocket. 

Victoria's dad, Ryan Lehto, has a partnership with Celestis Inc., a Texas-based company offering memorial spaceflights, which also sends the DNA of live individuals into outer space.

Lehto owns Global Genetic Health, which operates in Thunder Bay and does DNA processing for various clients.

He said he hopes his daughter will be inspired by her participation in next week's mission.

"I just thought I was kind of leaving a legacy, and something that's going be with her for her entire life. And she can say 'Hey, my DNA is out in the farthest reaches of space, that kind of stuff, and just kind of get her excited about science. I really wanted to instill that her at an early age."

Lehto's own DNA will also be on the rocket.

The family had hoped to watch the launch in Florida in person, but instead will see it at home on a live stream.

"We're going to get up in the middle of the night. We're going to have some popcorn, kind of a little party, and try to get that excitement back for her," Lehto said in an interview Wednesday.

"She's still excited about it, but it's kind of been like, 'Hey, it's gonna happen . . . it's not gonna happen ... it's gonna happen ... it's not gonna happen,' so it's worn a little bit thin."

Lehto said she already has a good sense that this is a momentous occasion from media interviews and the fact she's been asked to the front of her class to tell her schoolmates about it.

"She's kind of realizing it's a big event. I think going to see the rocket take off would have been pretty amazing, but we'll watch it on the big screen at home."

Victoria is already familiar with what science can accomplish on a much smaller scale, as she has her own YouTube channel where she has hosted some scientific experiments.

Celestis Inc. has said that upon completion of its powered burn and coast phase, the Enterprise flight will become Enterprise Station and will orbit the Sun indefinitely as the most distant permanent human repository outpost.

Also aboard the rocket will be the DNA of the creator and several cast members of the original Star Trek television series. 


Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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