Watching the unmanned Antares rocket explode after lift-off last night was devastating, but the loss was especially tough for a handful of school-kids across the US and Canada. In addition to the thousands of pounds of supplies onboard were projects they designed for the space journey.
As more information becomes available about the cause of the crash—likely a "destructive abort," or intentional detonation by the range safety officer after the vehicle began to disassemble—the cargo manifest is also being fleshed out beyond the initial line item categories. It's been clarified that none of the supplies were immediately essential, but damn: There is a hell of a lot of stuff that disappeared.
The Guardian and PRI gathered reactions from juniors, seniors, and even elementary students who had traveled to Wallops Island from Texas, Michigan, New Jersey, British Columbia, (and more) to see their hard work take flight, and it is heartbreaking stuff.
In many cases, the programs had been in development for over a year—an eternity at that age—then selected out of thousands to make the trek, while the schools raised tons of cash—up to $25,000!—to make their scientific dreams come true. The experiments covered everything from monitoring how crystals and slime molds would act in microgravity to quantifying how different types of yeast and pea-shoots would grow given the galactic environment, with implications for future missions to Mars.
While it is a big time bummer to know how much was lost, it seems these younguns have an admirable attitude toward the catastrophe, one that (sadly) traversed the spectrum of human emotion real quick in real time.
From The Guardian:
A student, Peter Obi, said he initially thought the massive burst of light was part of the plan. "I had never seen a launch before so when it got up I thought it was supposed to happen, but then they started evacuating us so I knew something had gone wrong," the 17-year-old said. "Obviously we had fun creating the project and when you see something you created be destroyed, that's definitely a feeling that isn't pleasant."