‘Absolutely unreal’: Students savor SpaceX launch with their experiment onboard

MERRITT ISLAND, Flor. — The highly anticipated SpaceX launch blasted off Tuesday morning from the Kennedy Space Center for the International Space Station!

Eight students from the University of Idaho created an experiment NASA wants to test in space. The engineering students submitted a proposal that was only one of five NASA chose to fund. After over a year of hard work, the big launch was everything they were hoping for.

“It was incredible to know that it is on its way to the ISS [International Space Station] right now and that all of our hard work has paid off,” said Hannah Johnson, a 2021 University of Idaho Grad who studied Chemical Engineering and was the team lead on the Vandals Voyage.

MORE: Vandals Voyage: Meet the team sending their science project to space

Six students watched the launch from Peacock Beach, and one student, Kaitlyn Harvey, watched from the countdown clock. They had an early wake-up call to make the launch which was scheduled around 2 a.m. PST, but they were running on pure adrenaline. The weather was also an issue they were watching, but it all came together in the end.

The University of Idaho filed a patent on the chemistry the students created, so they’re hoping the project does well in microgravity.

“If this demonstration works, that just helps the route towards commercialization,” said Matthew Bernards, a University of Idaho Professor and Director of the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium.

Johnson says she isn’t sure how this will impact her future, but it’s definitely given her a newfound passion and appreciation for NASA, and she hopes one day to be a part of it.

“I definitely could see myself looking to get into the space industry, absolutely,” she added. “This experience and experiment have opened my eyes completely.”

The experiment will spend around 30 days in space before coming back down to earth where the students will analyze their findings at the University of Idaho.

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