School projects onboard exploded Virginia rocket destroyed

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 30, 2014 4:39 AM

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Over a dozen school projects were onboard the U.S. supply rocket that exploded shortly after liftoff from a Virginia launch pad, but a group of California students will have another shot at getting their project - containing live worms - into space.

The project, developed by students at the Urban Promise Academy middle school in Oakland, would have sent the worms to the International Space Station to study the effects of space on composting, Oakland School District spokesman Troy Flint said on Wednesday.

Flint said students and staff watched the disastrous launch of the 14-story Antares rocket live on a large screen in the school's auditorium on Tuesday.

"They were very distressed initially when the rocket blew up. Of all the points of potential failure, that wasn't one that students or staff had anticipated," Flint said.

No one was injured when the rocket, built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp, exploded into what witnesses said looked like a "ball of fire" after lifting off from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

The rocket was carrying more than 5,000 pounds (2,273 kg) of equipment and supplies for the station.

But Flint added that school officials were assured they would have a second chance to send the project into space on an upcoming launch, though it was not immediately clear when.

"The kids will be able to realize their dream, if everything goes well, of having their experiments in space, and see the results," Flint said.

The project was among 18 student investigations onboard the rocket when it exploded, according to a NASA statement. The winners were selected from a pool of nearly 1,500 proposals from across the country, NASA said.

It was not immediately clear whether the other projects would also be included on another flight.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Toby Chopra)