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A rocket that exploded carried a space research experiment created by Newcastle High School students

The NASA TechRise logo is surrounded by geometric rocket and high altitude balloon designs.
NASA TechRise Student Challenge

A suborbital rocket carrying payloads from NASA’s TechRise Student Challenge, including those made by students at Newcastle High School, exploded shortly after takeoff earlier this month. A suborbital rocket is one that reaches space but doesn’t have the speed to stay in orbit for a long time. Of a total of 117 payloads, which are student projects that were selected as part of the challenge, 13 were on the ill-fated rocket.

“It's pretty upsetting [and] really stinks that like given the nature of it, it's not possible to try again,” said Logan Wynia, a graduate of Newcastle High School that participated in the TechRise program. “But I'm focused on what, like where my future is headed, so, got to keep going, I guess.”

The TechRise Student Challenge encourages students in 6th through 12th grades to design science experiments that will be placed on suborbital vehicles. Newcastle High School students created small computer microprocessors placed in a 4x8x8 inch box that would determine if cosmic radiation would scramble code entered by the students into the microprocessors. It was meant to show how radiation can affect computers.

Those satellites were picked out of many projects to be part of the challenge. They were loaded in the 20-foot tall rocket launched at a facility near Upham, New Mexico on May 1.

Wynia and several other students have also since graduated since working on their TechRise project in the spring of 2022. He heard about the explosion via an email chain from other members of the team that worked on the project and that viewed a livestream of the launch.

“[What] I did was some of the programming, and I learned to solder for this project,” he said. “Earlier that year [we] did a project requiring a geiger counter. So we used the same code for that geiger counter project, [and] kind of recycled it and made it fit with what we needed for the TechRise project.”

Despite the explosion, Wynia is undeterred in his future plans to pursue a STEM career and hopes to eventually to become an astronaut.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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