LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – One small step for man, one giant leap for the University of Kentucky.

Students and staff are over the moon about the success of a project successfully launching a pair of capsules into space. They entered the atmosphere and were set ablaze traveling 20 times the speed of sound before landing in the Pacific Ocean, collecting data that will help scientists worldwide.

“There’s always doubt until the last minute that things aren’t going to work out. This has been a long project that started almost 10 years ago at this point, so it was very good to see that things worked out better than we expected,” said UK professor of mechanical engineering Dr. Alexandre Martin.

The goal is to collect data on heat shields, and how they react traveling at blazing speeds to other planets and on the way back to Earth. Students can know that their hard work will help scientists develop better thermal protection systems, which benefits astronauts, the equipment, and scientific instruments during the flights to the great beyond.

“It validated all the work I had done. All the meetings and hours I put into it for the past year and a half. I was overjoyed to see that we got a response from the spacecraft, and we have experimental data,” said UK student John Schmidt.

“This will help us get better tools and understand more of what’s going on with heat shields, and allow us to validate our tools,” added Alexandre.

As the students keep their eyes on the stars and feet on the ground, they celebrate a breakthrough in science, all from Lexington Kentucky.

“It’s very exciting and rewarding to conduct this research and to see it all work out like that,” Schmidt said.