Rocket explosion has silver lining, say Ocean City student scientists

     NASA TV shows Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned rocket blowing up over the launch complex at Wallops Island, Virginia, just six seconds after liftoff. The company says no one was believed to be hurt and the damage appeared to be limited to the facilities. (AP Photo/NASA TV)

    NASA TV shows Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned rocket blowing up over the launch complex at Wallops Island, Virginia, just six seconds after liftoff. The company says no one was believed to be hurt and the damage appeared to be limited to the facilities. (AP Photo/NASA TV)

    Students at Ocean City High School started working on science projects last November to compete for a place on the NASA Antares rocket. Six students watched Tuesday in Virginia when the rocket exploded six seconds after launching.

    Mercy Griffith was one of those students. “Everyone was cheering, and there was smoke and it looked really cool,” she said.

    What had happened didn’t hit her until she heard it – the sonic boom traveling the 1.7 miles between the launchpad and the onlookers.

    Though disappointed, Griffith said the students still benefited from the year of work leading up to the launch.  The months-long research and selection process to get to the actual experiment involved the most work, she said. Her group was looking at the ability of the E. coli vaccine to attach to a surface in zero gravity.

    And the students have a new appreciation for the scientific process.

    “Even though it’s a horrible thing that happened, we learned a lot, and we have a much higher appreciation for the work that goes into all of this,” said Griffith. She said she feels worse for the rocket’s handlers because “this is their work.”

    And Ocean City High School physics teacher Dan Weaver said all is not lost — students will recreate the experiment in the coming months. They’ll get to send “take two” on another mission to space in December of January.

     

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