Monday, September 17, 2012

To infinity . . . and beyond!

At halftime of Saturday's Nebraska football game, you got the marching band and stuff, sure . . . but you also got to watch some teenagers commit science.

With a little help from a homegrown astronaut.

And they launched some experiment-carrying weather balloons to infinity . . . and beyond! Or just shy of 100,000 feet, whichever came first.

SUNDAY, the Omaha World-Herald got the scoop:
It takes a lot of work to gain the privilege of standing on the field at Memorial Stadium on game day in front of 85,000 fans.

It takes dedication, hours of practice, weeks of preparation.

But the cheers Saturday weren't just for touchdowns, and a football wasn't the only flying object.

A group of students and teachers led one of the biggest science experiments Husker Nation has ever seen.

During halftime, the group released three high-altitude balloons, also known as weather balloons.

The balloons, 8 feet in diameter and typically filled with helium, floated to heights of up to 20 miles into “near space” to collect data. Astronaut Clayton Anderson of Ashland, Neb., assisted with the launch.

One balloon carried specimens of E. coli, red and white blood cells, oranges, motor oil and experimental planting seeds.

A second carried special devices to collect environmental data so students could measure such things as air pressure and cosmic rays. The third carried an identification banner of the different groups.

The data were expected to fall to Earth a couple hours after liftoff.

Michael Sibbernsen, science and technology coordinator at the Strategic Air & Space Museum, said near space is an area in the atmosphere where conditions are very cold and relatively similar to those of outer space.

Many of the experiments measured how near space and high altitudes affect the specimens. Thanks to a NASA grant, such research is now accessible to students and teachers in Nebraska.
WATCH the video (above) from the university. Cool stuff from the very edge of space.

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