CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — For the second time in a year, participants of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) watched as their experiment headed skyward, launched toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS). The first attempt to launch their project, in October 2014, ended when an Orbital ATK Antares rocket suffered an engine failure and crashed back down on the launch pad. Eight months later, their second chance brought similar disappointment when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket suffered an in-flight anomaly during its latest ISS resupply mission, dumping its Dragon capsule and their experiment into the Atlantic.
Many will get the chance to rebuild and fly again, but others will have graduated from high school and moved on to college or a career. They might not get the chance to work on a space project again. For these students, the loss is more than just a missed opportunity – it is the loss of a dream.
Resupply missions not only bring experiments to the ISS, they also deliver vital supplies. Fresh foods such as vegetables and fruits are a rarity on the station and resupply missions give the crews some much-needed tastes from home. Water supplies are also carried, because, despite the ISS water reclamation system, some water is lost to the system’s processes and through the airlocks when spacewalks are taken. The daily loss is minimal but, over time, it adds up.
One interesting item lost with the Dragon was a HoloLens from Microsoft. The mixed-reality device was to undergo testing on the ISS. No word from Microsoft or NASA on when a replacement might be sent up.
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