When Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned Antares rocket blew up just after liftoff Tuesday evening, 2.5 tons of space station experiments and equipment from NASA were obliterated.
The cost of the failure was estimated at $200 million, and it put a dent in NASA's assurances that private companies are the future of America's space program.
Among the loses were 1,600 pounds of science experiments, 18 of which were produced by students from San Antonio to British Columbia, all part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program launched by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education with the private space company NanoRacks.
The experiments included studies of how microgravity affects everything from the common housefly to soybeans to dry lake shrimp.
The latter experiment was produced by four girls at St. Monica Catholic School in Kalamazoo, Mich.
The group told CBS affiliate WWMT in Kalamazoo they watched the explosion live, but weren't devastated by it.
"Science is a lot of trial and error," said student Delaney Hewitt. "You never know if something is going to turn out or not."
Students at the University of Texas at Austin had built a small satellite designed to orbit the Earth and monitor water vapor and how it moves around the planet.
Their launch party did not go as all had hoped, reports CBS affiliate KHOU in Houston.
"No one could really believe it. It takes a few minutes to hit you that something of this magnitude has happened," said Cody Colley, a UT engineering student who worked a year and a half on the satellite.
Their professor told KHOU he took a broader view.
"We're not betting everything on just one mission, so there's always the next mission. We're looking forward to the next missions that we're going to do. They're going to be successful," said UT aerospace engineering professor Glenn Lightsey.
Students in Canada had an entirely different reaction to watching their experiment go up in flames. Sixth and seventh graders at McGowan Park Elementary in Kamloops, B.C., had an experiment on space crystals devised last school year in that payload, reports the CBC.
Their teacher, Sharmane Baerg, told the CBC they had a party for the launch, with a rocket cake and all. Then disaster struck.
"It was just a bit of shock at first, of course, but they recovered," she said. "And then they started laughing... there were no injuries, so that's really good."