GLASGOW — SpaceX launched a test of its Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday, and Justin Browning’s high school computer science class watched a livestream of the event in the Trojan Academy.
Browning, who is the computer science and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) instructor for Barren County Schools, said his students thoroughly enjoyed “the wonder involved in seeing a launch, and seeing something going beyond what even our eyes can see.”
“They enjoyed it,” Browning said. “They’re intrigued enough to where they will send me updates of what’s happening. We left class and I’m getting messages and emails saying, ‘Hey, it’s doing this now. It’s doing this now.’”
According to SpaceX’s website, Falcon Heavy is “the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two.”
“Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space,” the website states, adding that the rocket “restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.”
Browning said his middle school computer science class watched a recording of the SpaceX launch on Wednesday since the launch was delayed and occurred after their class had dismissed on Tuesday.
“We talked about how, from ground up, a launch like that literally requires thousands of people,” Browning said. “And even though the culminating event is the rocket going into space and Starman heading to the asteroid belt right now as we speak, that culminating event only happened because of all the work of every level, every tier of SpaceX.
“So we heard the cheers of the thousands of people who were in that room, knowing and understanding that all those thousands of people had a role. Whatever their role was, they were just as ecstatic as the ones who were pushing the buttons.”
Barren County Middle School eighth-grader Jackson Hardin said “it was fun watching all of the people from SpaceX, how they were getting to actually watch their rocket that they had been working on.”
“I thought it was really neat how they sent it out of Earth’s orbit to Mars,” Hardin said.
BCMS eighth-grader Angelena Hernandez said they discussed how SpaceX programmed the rocket using the programming language C++. She said her favorite part of the launch was when the boosters returned back to Earth and landed.
“They were able to land themselves,” Hernandez said. “The programming was so advanced that it was able to make them land without crashing down. That’s pretty cool because that means we’re advancing technology.”
Hernandez said she is fascinated by space and “what we can learn about it.”
“I would like to go up into space and see if there was life on other planets,” she said. “Mr. Browning explained a lot about (SpaceX), that they’re hiring and that almost anyone of any age who has experience in C++ or any kind of code could help them out.
“It’s pretty cool, because in the future I’m going to be a video-game designer. So this is going to help me in the very near future when I graduate and go to college.”
BCMS eighth-grader James Wilson said his favorite part of the launch was when the two boosters came back and landed, “landing as perfectly as they did.”
“When you watched them, they didn’t jolt or anything when they landed,” he said. “They just landed softly, perfectly. I was really excited because we were able to get into space past Earth’s gravity and pretty much be able to go anywhere in the solar system.”
BCMS eighth-grader Matthew Chapman said he sat in amazement as he watched the launch.
“That’s the first one I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It blew my mind how much programming it took just to get it off the land and into the air.”
Browning said that, in the future, SpaceX wants to commercially transport people from one location to another on Earth “in under an hour.”
“The technology that they are using for those boosters — to take off and land — is the technology that they are going to use to do that,” he said. “I can leave New York and I can be in Beijing in 40 minutes. And they’ll use the same technology as those boosters.
“That’s the direction they are going. It’s going to greatly change not just space travel, it’s going to greatly change travel on Earth as well."
Browning's elementary students also watched a recording of the launch. He said he tells them that “curiosity drives innovation." Browning said, when he was growing up, he and his friends watched NASA space launches and they all wanted to become astronauts — they were inspired by advances in technology.
“I don’t want that curiosity to get lost,” he said. “That’s what really drives innovation.”