A suite of scientific experiments was lost yesterday evening when the Antares rocket headed to the International Space Station (ISS) exploded 6 seconds after liftoff. The NASA-commissioned rocket, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., exploded on the launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia, incinerating the scientific experiments on board as well as 748 kg of supplies for the six astronauts stationed on the ISS.
Among the losses was an experiment designed by students at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas, to determine the optimal lighting conditions for growing pea shoots in outer space. The plants’ rapid growth and high concentration of nutrients make them promising food sources for extended missions in space.
Another casualty was an experiment using a high-resolution camera to observe the chemical composition of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere. Meteors are relatively rare and difficult to observe from the ground; one way to solve that problem is to hunt for them from the top down. The camera, developed by the Southwest Research Institute, would have peered out of a window on the ISS to record the light spectrum of the rocks as they streaked through Earth’s atmosphere.