SEMO Campus Hosts Test Launch of Eclipse Weather Balloons

Jun 21, 2017

Two dozen school teachers from southeast Missouri involved in an eclipse educational project took part in a two-day conference on the Southeast Missouri State University campus.

The conference ended Wednesday with a test launch of two tethered high-altitude, helium-filled weather balloons, similar to the ones that will be released on eclipse day, August 21st.

Jason Krueger is president and founder of Stratostar, the company that launches research-related balloons for education institutions across the country. He says out of the hundreds of balloon launches he’s done, this one is special because it’ll be the first during an eclipse.

"From a science standpoint, or even a photography standpoint,  we think we'll be high enough at 60,000 to 80,000 feet, or 2-3 times higher than airplanes fly, to see the entire circle, or at least inside the total eclipse and outside, both sides, where there  is no eclipse. We might be able to see the shadow from above."

The balloon will feature a 360-degree camera to capture images from the sky. Dana Below is a junior high science teacher in Advance, MO. She says that’s one of the most exciting aspects for her.

"Seeing not only what this is going to look like from the ground up, but also to see what it's going  to look like from the sky down. So, that'll be unique."

Cape Girardeau Public Schools technology instructional specialist James Russell says this is a rare educational opportunity for students that could have lifelong benefits.

"As a 3rd or 4th grader being able to say, 'Hey, I've already sent something into space.' What that can ingnite in that student and in other students is going to be something to see."

Kaci Heins is helping coordinate the project. The SEMO alumnus and Harrisburg native is an education supervisor for Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Heins says this allows teachers and students a unique glimpse of what goes on in outer space.

"Getting to actual space is really difficult and very expensive. This is much more cost-efficient and we can send multiple experiments in small tubes up to extreme temperatures, extreme pressure changes, extreme radiation and be able to test anything in any field of science."

The balloons on eclipse day will include science experiments from students in the participating schools.