Student Science Experiments Lost in NASA Rocket Explosion

By Liana Loewus — October 30, 2014 1 min read
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By now you’ve likely heard that an unmanned rocket headed to the International Space Station exploded just seconds after takeoff Tuesday from Wallops Island, Va. (Perhaps like me you even came home to a very disappointed family member that night who’d been sitting on the roof hoping to see the rocket launch ... )

What you might not have known is that the Antares rocket was carrying, among other things, a “multitude” of middle school science experiments. The students’ experiments were selected from nearly 1,500 proposals, Mashable reports.

One of the experiments, as the NASA mission overview explains, led by students at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston, was designed to test how well pea shoots would grow in space. “Pea shoots grow so quickly on Earth that they can be harvested in two to four weeks,” the overview states. “They also contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals, making them a potential source of food on long-duration space missions. Students will identify the best combinations of red and blue LED lights, which are used in the plant growth chamber, by analyzing the plants’ mineral content upon return to Earth.”

Other student-led experiments aimed to look at “how fluids act and form into crystals in the absence of gravity” and the effect of microgravity on milk.

A school principal in San Antonio who watched the failed launch with some of the student participants told the San Antonio Express-News they were “resilient,” and hoped to do their experiments again.

Image: An unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket explodes shortly after takeoff at Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. on Oct. 28. —Jay Diem/Eastern Shore News/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.