The team of 22 students, mostly high school juniors from Riverside Christian Schools, landed at Los Angeles International Airport exhausted, but proud after becoming the first U.S. students to witness firsthand their science projects blasted off into space.
"It was breathtaking," said Andrew Dinunzio, a high school junior. "When we got to the pier and we finally watched a year's worth of blood, sweat and tears go up to the space station, everyone just kind of stopped and took a deep breath."
Two experiments they engineered, one dealing with how batteries operate in space and the other about bacteria, were aboard the SpaceX unmanned capsule nicknamed "Dragon," which arrived Sunday.
"There's only a few high schools in the entire world that have ever sent a science experiment to the International Space Station," said Bob Reinen of Riverside Christian Schools. "These are the only group of students that have actually gone and watched their own experiments be launched into space."
Aside from the experiments, the capsule was loaded with a ton of supplies, including mouse stem cells, food and clothes for the six men on board the space station.
The students, most of them high school juniors, described it as an experience of a lifetime.
"There's so much to look forward to and it's such a unique opportunity," said Emlyn Coverdale, another high school junior. "I'd have to say my favorite part was watching it go through the clouds. That was just incredible."