Students’ experiments lost in Antares rocket explosion

Media Credit: Photo courtesy the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Two GW students lost their research when the Antares rocket exploded during launch on Oct. 28. No one was injured in the explosion, but the launch facilities were damaged.

When Jun Xi Ni found out that a rocket that was supposed to be traveling to the International Space Station had exploded, she couldn’t believe the months of research she had completed with three other students was gone.

Their project, which was lost in the Antares rocket explosion last week, would have tested if the seeds of chrysanthemum plants could germinate in space. If so, those plants could help remove toxins from the air inside shuttles in space, helping astronauts breathe.

“I actually heard somebody else talking about it and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s so funny because my experiment’s going up,” she said. “And they said, ‘Oh, that might be the same rocket’ and I said, ‘No way, it can’t be.’”

Two GW students, Ni and Shayda Shahbazi, were awarded a grant as part of the D.C. Space Grant Consortium with two students from Georgetown University. All four were part of a program that trains college students who might teach STEM classes after graduation.

Eric Day, program manager at the consortium, said the students will eventually have an opportunity to send their work into space, likely in December, when a rocket will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The experiment shouldn’t be a problem to replicate because the team already had the necessary resources set aside.

Day said he watched the Oct. 28 launch with the two Georgetown students, Thomas Burchfield and Maryellen Campbell, in Florida.

“They were absolutely devastated. It was absolutely crazy,” Day said. “At first they weren’t really worried about their experiment. They didn’t know if anyone was hurt.”

No one was injured in the explosion, but the launch facilities were damaged.

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