Students' project among losses in rocket explosion

ROCKWALL -- A rocket bound for space, exploding in seconds, is something 14-year-old Ryan Figert's generation has never seen.

"My dad told me they used to sit around the TV and watch everything that launched into space, we don't really experience that anymore so we were kind of not knowing what to expect," said Figert, a freshman at Rockwall High School.

It took just a couple of seconds Tuesday for a commercial, unmanned rocket to go up in flames. Since eliminating the space shuttle program in 2011 NASA has relied on private contractors to supply the International Space Station.

Among the thousands of pounds of supplies were 18 science experiments from high school students across the United States.

Last spring, then eighth grader Figert and his class were picked by the National Center for Earth and Space Exploration as one of eight high school teams in the United States to send a project into space.

"Scientists would do anything to get their experiment onto the international space station, and these kids did it as eighth graders," said Jeff Chandler, science teacher at Rockwall High School.

It's a project that started a year ago, Chandler's students trying to see the effects, if any that microgravity would have on the growth of cancer cells. All contained inside a small, specially designed tube to be handled by astronauts aboard the ISS.

Tuesday, the launch Chandler and his students waited a year for took place. The plan was for the Antares rocket to propel the Cygnus cargo spacecraft towards the international space station.

"It was just kind of like, man, we're glad no one got hurt, but at the same time, that's a lot of damage and a lot of work we put in for that," said Figert.

"We were really excited, and then all of a sudden, you're watching it and it starts to lift off, and then you go, 'oh, there is something going on here,'" said Chandler.

Their project, among the $200 million worth of equipment, was lost in seconds.

But their mission isn't over. Plans are in the works for the next rocket leaving Earth.


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