Norfolk middle school students were there as Antares rocket exploded

Posted at 7:20 PM, Oct 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-29 19:20:52-04

Norfolk, Va. (WTKR) - A group of middle school students from Norfolk were at Wallop's Island Tuesday evening and witnessed the explosion of the Antares rocket.

The Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket, loaded with supplies and headed for the International Space Station, exploded just six seconds after it launched.

Ghent Montessori School middle school teacher Brandon McCrary and six students were at the Wallop's Island Visitor's Center when the explosion happened.

They are currently studying the Cold War, the space race and the physics behind space travel, so McCrary thought the rocket launch would be a timely field trip.

The group traveled to the Eastern Shore on Monday for the first launch that ended up being scrubbed. At the last second Tuesday, they made the decision to try again.

Some of the students had seen a rocket launch before while others hadn't, but the explosion was a first for all.

"Some people started counting it down and when it reached one, it started. Right after take-off you could tell it was not going fast enough and then it blew up," Sumner Darling told NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo.

"I felt a loud pop," recalled Dallas Dickens of the resulting sound and shock wave.

"I thought it was amazing just seeing it, but then when I saw it starting to glow red, I knew I didn’t see it in the first one and I realized that’s not right," remembered Helen McCrary. "I thought everyone was joking around but then I realized they aren’t joking, it really did crash."

"I've never seen a rocket launch before, not even on TV,  so this was totally new to me," said student Maya Porten. "I didn’t really realize anything was going on at first and when I heard all these sounds 'Oh my God and woah' I knew something was wrong."

"Part of the project that I’m working on is space disasters, so I was actually reading about the Challenger that morning. It was kind of amazing for me to know I was there for this big of a deal," explained Clare Harbin.

"I remember watching the Challenger disaster and I was probably about their age when that happened and I remember that in my mind and this one seeing it in my mind is definitely going to be the same kind of event," teacher Brandon McCrary added.

McCrary says after the rocket exploded there was a bit of stunned silence and amazement from fellow spectators.

Shortly after, NASA officials began evacuating the area.

For all his students, watching the Antares rocket explode in person is something they won't likely forget anytime soon.

Click here for our full coverage of the Antares rocket explosion.