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18 Student Science Experiments Lost In Rocket Explosion


As we mentioned, last night's explosion didn't just destroy a rocket and thousands of pounds of cargo. Also destroyed were 18 science experiments created by students. And one of those students joins us now. She is Natalie Moyer, a ninth grader at Hackett Catholic High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Natalie, welcome.


BLOCK: And you were on one of the student teams that won a competition to get your experiment up in space. What was the experiment?

NATALIE: Our experiment was microgravity's effects on Dry Lake fairy shrimp.

BLOCK: Dry Lake fairy shrimp - what's a Dry Lake fairy shrimp?

NATALIE: It's just like a really, really small shrimp.

BLOCK: And what was the idea behind the experiment? What did you want to see?

NATALIE: We wanted to study the muscle mass and development if we hatched a freeze-dried egg up in space.

BLOCK: And what made you curious about that?

NATALIE: We just, kind of, thought that that would be a really good medium to use to represent the astronaut really well.

BLOCK: So the idea would be maybe you could apply whatever you learned about shrimp to muscle mass loss of people in space. Is that the theory?


BLOCK: What did you think you would find out?

NATALIE: We hypothesized that if we sent one up and hatched one up in space, then it would come back with a lot less muscle, or hardly any muscle, than the ones hatched on earth.

BLOCK: Natalie, I gather you were watching the launch yesterday on television - saw the rocket explode. Tell me about what that was like for you guys.

NATALIE: Well, we were all, like, really ready to watch it. We all had our arms around each other, being really excited to watch it, and then all of a sudden it started smoking, like, at the bottom, which was supposed to happen. And then all of a sudden, it went up and then there was, like, a flare of light and then all of a sudden, it just sort of came down and exploded - kind of like a big ball of fire.

BLOCK: Yeah, and were you thinking oh, no, that's our experiment on there?

NATALIE: Yeah, we were a little bit, like, disappointed, but then we realized it's going to go back up on another mission so - and no one was hurt. So it wasn't really a big tragedy or anything.

BLOCK: Natalie, are you kind of a space nut? Have you thought about space travel and what's out there?

NATALIE: I didn't really before this. I had always wanted to kind of, like, go into, like, the medical field. But then, ever since Mr. Henna(ph) started, like, looking into it more, I've been a lot more interested in kind of, like, doing more science-y stuff, like stuff with NASA and stuff like that.

BLOCK: Yeah, and does this rocket explosion change anything for you, about how you feel about that?

NATALIE: I guess it just kind of gives me more of an understanding of it because it really helps me see that not everything is going to go as planned in science. Like, there's a lot of, like, trial and error stuff and we're just never sure what's really going to happen.

BLOCK: Well, Natalie, best of luck with the next time you try to get this experiment launched into space and thanks for talking with us.

NATALIE: Yeah, thank you.

BLOCK: That's Natalie Moyer. She's a freshman at Hackett Catholic High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And her experiment was one of 18 student experiments destroyed in the rocket explosion yesterday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.