Students' experiments lost in SpaceX rocket explosion

By Greg Pallone, Brevard County Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 01, 2015, 12:34 PM EDT

From elation to shock.

That's what students from Damien High School in La Verne, California, went through as they watched SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, with their experiment on board, explode shortly after launch Sunday.

"We saw a really big cloud, and we were really confused at first," said student Richard Conti.

Not long after, the group of students visiting Central Florida to watch the launch learned the rocket — and the Dragon capsule containing the students' work — was lost.

"To see nine months of work end up so unfortunately, it was very discouraging," said student Ashwin Balaji.


(PHOTO/Damien High School)

The group that came to Florida included a team of five students, including Balaji and Conti, who submitted a winning experiment, along with finalists who came to support them and other students who created the artwork for the mission patch.


(PHOTO/Damien High School)

The Damien High School students' experiment was one of 25 lost in Sunday's explosion, all part of Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Supplies being sent to the International Space Station were also lost.

The Damien students' experiment involved microorganisms that can physically shut themselves down for long periods of time, surviving without air and water.

 
(PHOTOS/Damien High School)

The experiment was supposed to take place in the unique microgravity environment of the International Space Station, leading to a possible solution for humans on future, long-term space missions.

"For humans to go through deeper space travel, we would look into the viability of that," said science teacher Charity Trojanowski.

But despite the loss, these future scientists said they saw Sunday's launch failure as a learning experience.

"To know the difficulty of doing science within the real world, and beyond Earth, is like," Balaji said.

"As a scientist and a researcher, you can't be fazed by failures," Conti added. "You have to learn to fall down seven times and get up on the eighth."

The group from Damien High School consists entirely of graduated seniors, all headed to colleges across the country, but they are hoping to reassemble to eventually get another experiment off the ground.


(PHOTO/Damien High School)


(PHOTO/Damien High School)


(PHOTO/Damien High School)