This News Release is outdated and posted here for archival purposes only.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Release No. 07.26.16-NASAWeatherBalloon
July 26, 2016

Students Prepare for NASA High-Altitude Science Balloon Launch

The College of the Canyons Astronomy & Physics Club has spent the summer preparing and testing a prototype platform to collect cosmic dust particles in the upper stratosphere aboard a NASA high-altitude science balloon that will launch in August.​

College of the Canyons is the only community college participating in this year’s High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) program, and it is one of only four community colleges ever chosen to participate in the program’s 10-year history. The program is run by Louisiana State University and NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. 

With funding provided by the College of the Canyons Center for Applied Competitive Technologies, a six-person team will travel to the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas on July 31 for testing and device integration. The payload will launch from New Mexico in late August.  

“We are very thankful to all who have been involved in the process, and to have this opportunity,” said Teresa Ciardi, a physical science professor at the college. Ciardi and Greg Poteat, an adjunct manufacturing instructor, are co-advisors on the project, providing guidance and support to the team. 

“To say that the students are super excited would be an understatement,” Ciardi said. “Greg and I are looking forward to seeing all of the work our team has done culminate in having our project integrated onto the flight platform.” 

The team will complete various stages of testing followed by integration onto the main platform, as well as acquiring pre-flight data, before returning home on Aug. 5. A camera will be attached to the science balloon, which will allow the team to view the launch and the scene from above during the flight on the NASA HASP website.

The project originated from a proposal submitted in December by student Daniel Tikhomirov to send a payload on the HASP platform. The proposal was accepted in January, which is when the team went to work. 

“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” Tikhomirov said of the project and upcoming launch. His only concern, he said, is the possibility that the experiment may be compromised by factors such as wind. “Since it is flying up and coming back down, I’m worried about particles becoming detached,” he said. “We need to set up a checklist for ground control to follow.” 

Once the launch has been completed, NASA’s HASP recovery team will follow the team’s specific checklist to retrieve, detach, pack and return the box designed to trap interstellar dust particles (IDPs).

“If we are fortunate enough to capture IDPs, I have a contact at Johnson Space Flight Center, Dr. Susan Lederer, who is going to work with us to analyze the particles, which may result in a published astrophysics paper,” Ciardi added.