Rocket carrying Knox County school experiment explodes

An unmanned rocket exploded during its launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida Sunday morning.

(WBIR-Cape Canaveral) An unmanned rocket exploded during its launch in Cape Canaveral on Sunday morning.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to deliver a robotic Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station. On board was more than two and a half tons of supplies, equipment, and experiments.

A group of Gresham Middle School students, teachers, principals, and parents were in attendance as their hard work went up in flames just minutes after liftoff.

"It was pretty disappointing," Gresham student Keagan Cross said.

The group was chosen to have their experiment flown to the space station as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. This was SSEP's seventh mission and ninth launch.

"This program has really impacted so many different facets of how education is done in Knox County," SSEP Director Jeff Goldstein said. "That makes me very, very excited and proud of what they're doing."

In space, astronauts were planning to perform the experiment's protocols, which was designed to measure the effects of antibiotics in space.

This is the second time in the past year that a rocket carrying an experiment done by Knox County students has exploded.

MORE: Rocket carrying East TN students' experiment explodes during liftoff

At this year's launch, students and teachers didn't even realize there was a problem.

"We didn't know that anything was wrong when the rocket came up," Gresham student Hanson Lam said. "It wasn't until we heard the live broadcast that we didn't know something was wrong and that the rocket exploded."

But teachers and students said it was not a failure for them.

"There was no blame being assigned anywhere," Becky Ashe, L & N STEM principal and Knox County Schools STEM Coordinator, said. "It's not a failure. It's just data points."

"We're very thankful for this opportunity, and we'd like to thank our school and teachers," Gresham student Katherine Redden said. "I can't wait to see what's next."

Students from Bearden Middle School and Hardin Valley Academy, whose experiments were finalists for this mission, were also with the group.

NASA said the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket experienced a vehicle failure, causing the explosion.

Goldstein said he promises to relaunch Gresham Middle School's project later in the year.

UT grad, Scott Kelly, is spending a year in space at the International Space Station and watched the explosion.


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