WRITER: Paulo Oemig
A team of students and faculty from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at New Mexico State University will launch a high-altitude balloon on Monday, Aug. 21 as part of a nationwide, NASA-sponsored project to live-stream aerial video footage of the “Great American Eclipse.”
The team will launch the roughly 8-foot-tall, helium-filled balloon, which will carry a video camera and other equipment to an altitude of up to 100,000 feet, at approximately 11 a.m. at the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska. Live footage from the camera will be available for public viewing on a NASA sponsored website at http://eclipse.stream.live/.
As part of the NASA-sponsored Eclipse Ballooning Project, 55 teams from across the country will live-stream footage of the total solar eclipse, in which the moon will entirely block the sun for approximately two minutes on a path progressing from the Pacific coast in Oregon (1:17 p.m. PCT) to the Atlantic coast in South Carolina (2:47 p.m. EST).
According to NMSGC research scientist, Paulo Oemig, the project is unprecedented by broadcasting from high-altitude live video of the total solar eclipse.
“Live-broadcasting while tracking the eclipse across the continental United States has never been done,” Oemig said. “The nature of the project also offers an invaluable opportunity for the students in the team to translate their skills and knowledge into a real world application.”
Sten Hasselquist, an astronomy doctoral student and member of the team stated, “This is an outreach event of epic proportion. I am learning many practical real world skills that I can apply to future jobs. My participation in this project supported by New Mexico Space Grant will make me a more attractive job applicant and I will be able to continue my career as an astronomer.”
Norann Calhoun, a chemical engineering major and member of the team said, “I hope that the data received from these experiments will allow for further advancements in the space industry. This project has helped me expand my resume and have furthered my knowledge of the industry. I look forward to applying to jobs in the space industry when I graduate so that I can continue on the wonderful path that the New Mexico Space Grant has opened to me.”
In addition to a video camera, the team’s balloon will carry a GPS tracking system, a camera to capture still images of the eclipse, and a secondary payload consisting of a heat exchanger with wavy channels designed to increase the efficiency of propellants. Once the eclipse has passed, the balloon will pop and the payloads will parachute to Earth.
The NMSU team will also be participating in the “Plug-and-Fly” microbiology balloon opportunity. This payload will help understand Space Biosciences researchers at the NASA Ames Research Center how microbes behave near space conditions. This research in the stratosphere will help NASA understand the nature of bacteria in the context of microbial life on Mars or other extreme environments.
The project is sponsored by the NASA Science Mission Directorate and NASA’s Space Grant program, a national network that includes more than 900 affiliates from universities, colleges, industry, museums, science centers, and state and local agencies belonging to one of 52 consortia in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The following NMSU students and faculty and staff are involved in the eclipse and heat exchange projects: Norann Calhoun, chemical engineering; Sten Hasselquist, astronomy; Paulo Oemig, senior research scientist; and Krishna Kota, assistant professor.
For more information about the NM Eclipse Ballooning project visit http://nmspacegrant.com/.