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Houston Students With Experiments Aboard Antares Devastated by Explosion

Unmanned Antares Rocket Explodes Seconds After Lift-Off 1:30

The students from Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston couldn't wait for the Antares rocket to launch on Tuesday. The spacecraft was loaded with their cherished science experiments — samples of lipids, pea shoots and slime molds — and more than a dozen projects from students across the country. They watched the rocket shoot up in a blaze of mesmerizing white light.

That's when the Antares rocket exploded. More than 5,000 pounds of cargo bound for the International Space Station were destroyed when Orbital Science's two-stage Antares rocket blew up as it rose from its launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia — including more than 1,600 pounds worth of science projects in its payload. The students from Houston had worked on their experiments for nearly two years.

"Understandably, the students are pretty disappointed," Cristo Rey science teacher Greg Adragna said, according to NBC affiliate KPRC. "Something didn't look right after it took off and it was a pretty large explosion. You could actually feel a shock wave from where we were standing."

The wrecked rocket was carrying a total of 18 student flight experiments, covering everything from forming crystals in space to the effects of microgravity on chrysanthemum seeds. The projects were chosen from among nearly 1,500 proposals submitted by students in school districts in the U.S. and Canada under the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

IN-DEPTH

— Daniel Arkin