science environment

SpaceX Explosion Destroys Oregon Students' Experiment

By Kristian Foden-Vencil (OPB)
Portland, Oregon June 29, 2015 7:45 p.m.

McMinnville High School students were in Florida this weekend when the SpaceX rocket exploded after launch. Their on-board experiment was destroyed, but they hope to continue their work.


Jamie Cox/Flickr

No people were on the resupply rocket bound for the International Space Station. It disintegrated above Cape Canaveral Sunday.


On board, the experiment by the McMinnville students studying at the Evergreen Aviation Museum was supposed to collect data about how metals oxidize in space.

Senior Deborah Jackson watched the launch through binoculars. She said she saw debris, but thought it was from a part of the rocket disengaging. It wasn’t until later that she understood there had been an explosion.

"It was such a surreal moment to realize that it's gone," she said. "It's at the bottom of the Atlantic now."

The experiment was about the size of a butter cube, and had a small computer and a camera. The students were planning to track data from it and compare it to data collected in a land-based control experiment.

"We have a lot of mixed feelings," said Jackson. "We realize that this is engineering and failures happen. But that's how we get to success. We learn from our failures. And as President Kennedy once said, we don't do this because it's easy. We do this because it's hard."

Students are waiting to hear whether they will be given payload space for a redo.

The group sent up another experiment with NASA last year. It looked at how gravity affects the developing skeletons of meal worms.

Students have yet to come to a conclusion because the worms are so small, they need to find a microscope with enough power to compare worms in the experiment to worms in a control group, Jackson said.