Knox County School experiment explodes in SpaceX rocket launch

Knox County students with experiment on board SpaceX rocket.
Four Knox County students went to Florida to send their experiment to the International Space Station. (WATE)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Several Knox County students are disappointed after SpaceX’s unmanned rocket failed to launch correctly on Sunday because they had an experiment on board that was supposed to measure the effects of micro gravity on antibiotics.

Four Gresham Middle School students, who are part of the STEM group, went to Cape Canaveral, Florida on a field trip to send their science experiment to the International Space Station, but not long after liftoff, the rocket exploded.

“It was really disappointing,” said student Keagan Cross.

The students were treated as scientists because to even have their experiment go to space, it had to have the potential to advance the space program. According to NASA, these students are micro-gravity researchers.

“They did all the work,” said Becky Ashe, the Knox County Schools STEM Coordinator. “They were supervised by teachers and people, mentors, but they’re the ones that did the thinking, they did the designing, and they did the grunt work and figured out what dilution of solution to use.”

Just like real researchers, they had to deal with real failure.

“It’s a tragedy that there was loss of stuff of hardware and research materials,” said Ashe.

Sadly, it’s not the first time it’s happened. Another Knox County science experiment was on the rocket that also failed to launch in October. That experiment eventually made it on another launch, and this group of researchers are planning on doing the same with their experiment.

“I think we’re going to get our experiment, see what we have and improve on it to make it better for the next re-launch,” said student Hanson Lam. “As the director of this program said, this isn’t a simulation, this program is real. Difficulties do happen and this was something that was out of our hands.”

The students will get a chance to send up their experiment next year. This is the third time the county has participated. Any Knox County student from fifth to 12th grade can get involved.

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