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UNH student project captures space, earth videos

High school students and teachers involved in a University of New Hampshire summer program designed to promote science and math skills have declared their weather balloon project a success.

Students launched two weather balloons from the grounds of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish on July 17. The balloons soared 100,000 feet to the edge of outer space, capturing video and still images of the flights’ motion and of space and Earth.

A review of the video and 2,500 high-resolution photos – taken by cameras weighing less than a quarter-pound – show the motion of the Styrofoam and cardboard re-entry vessels as they wafted gently back to the ground. They landed in Exeter and in Lee, about 117 miles from the launch site.

The house-sized balloons that carried the re-entry vessels toward space burst under pressure, leaving the student-designed vessels to float slowly back to the ground.

Eight students from three high schools – Timberlane Regional in Plaistow, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy and Londonderry – collaborated on the project during the four-week program at the University of New Hampshire.

Lou Broad, a physics teacher at Timberlane, said the project taught students about how computer systems work in spacecraft and rotation rates of re-entry vessels as they returned to earth. “Probably the best lesson was giving them a very good idea of how a real spacecraft is built,” Broad said. “This is a simulated satellite.”

The UNH-sponsored SMART program – standing for Scientific and Mathematics Achievement through Research Training – is in its 22nd year. It is a four-week program designed to spur high school juniors and seniors into careers in science and mathematics.

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