KUSA- NASA officials call it a "tough day" for space operations after an unmanned SpaceX rocket exploded two minutes after it launched. The rocket was heading to the International Space Station carrying supplies for astronauts there. SpaceX and NASA said they are still investigating what caused the explosion.
The SpaceX Dragon mission's cargo contained several experiments from Colorado, including two biomedical experiments from a center based at CU-Boulder and two experiments put together by students in Jefferson County schools.
Throughout the past school year, several dozen ladybugs occupied the spare time of a trio of fifth-grade students from Mount Carbon Elementary in Littleton.
"Never have I been more interested about ladybugs in my whole entire life," said Meghan Simpson, one of the students.
Their experiment beat out the competition from schools across the nation and was chosen to be sent to the International Space Station to see if ladybugs can survive in the weightlessness of space, for possible use in future "space gardens."
Simpson and classmates Kylie Dappen and Maddison Gargiulo gathered to watch the launch.
"Just thinking of, like, all the crazy stuff that we went through," Dappen said.
The three said they were excited their experiment would finally be on its way to space.
"I'm wondering if they're even going to make it to space," Gargiulo said.
Those words would turn out to be foretelling -- 139 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, the SpaceX Dragon exploded.
Onboard the destroyed rocket with the ladybugs were at least three other Colorado experiments, including two biomedical experiments from BioServe, which is based at CU-Boulder's Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences.
Another experiment on the rocket came from students at Bell Middle School in Golden. They were going to test whether worms can compost in soil in space, which could also be used in future "space gardens" that would grow food for long-term human missions, like the eventual voyage to Mars.
"I'm shocked," said Mt. Carbon Elementary teacher Kim McGann. "It's so weird to see all of a sudden, something blow up because we're so good at getting rockets and stuff into space."
NASA officials called it a blow, both for the loss of thousands of pounds of supplies for astronauts living onboard the space station and for the disappointed student scientists across the country, who lost their work, too.
"We'll help them with getting their hardware built again and we'll get them to orbit and we'll do their experiments – and hopefully, this will be a positive lesson for them in the end," said Michael Suffredini, NASA's Space Station Program Manager. "But it's a big impact and it's hard on them, I know, because it's hard on me."
It was a tough lesson for students on the hardships of real science and the need to persevere.
"We waited so long and then it didn't happen," Simpson said.
In May, 9NEWS also reported on two area high schools that also had experiments that would be launching on this SpaceX rocket: Chatfield High in Littleton and Centaurus High in Lafayette.
A group of 20 students at Centaurus High School in Lafayette had also placed their device on the SpaceX rocket: a planetary gear system, designed to test bacteria in space.
The Chatfield High School students had an experiment on SpaceX, looking to see if algae, a potential renewable fuel, could grow in space.
More than 25 schools from across the country had their experiments onboard the SpaceX rocket. NASA officials said they will get another chance to send a new version of their experiments to the Space Station on a future rocket launch.
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