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Tuesday’s evening’s explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket seconds after liftoff was not only a setback to Orbital Sciences Corp. but also for students across the country whose science experiments were included in the payload. Orbital’s rocket was carrying a Cygnus cargo ship filled with supplies bound for the International Space Station. Also on board the spacecraft were 18 student flight experiments, covering everything from creating 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. SSEP is education initiative that gives student the chance to design experiments to fly into space.

Among the student experiments lost in the explosion was a project, designed by students at Wilkinson Middle School in Madison Heights, Michigan, to test the effects of microgravity on the interaction of Iodine tablets with coliform-infected water. “They had mixed emotions — joy watching your kid’s rocket go up followed by devastation,” Angel Abdulahad, an enrichment teacher at Wilkinson, told the Detroit Free Press. “Honestly I’m just dumbfounded and speechless,” Abdulahad said.

IN-DEPTH

— James Eng