Why: 

Public engagement. Total eclipses are rare and very impactful events. For those who have witnessed them, it is a memory they keep forever. The continental US hasn’t had a total eclipse since 1979 (northwest only). The NASA Space Grant network is in a unique position to engage the public in an awe-inspiring and educational way and for surprisingly small cost.

Workforce development. While the cost of conducting HAB flights is low, there are  interesting challenges presented by this highly collaborative effort. These challenges are broad – technical, political, administrative – and present an amazing hands-on learning opportunity for the students who participate.

Partnerships. Several potentially long lasting partnerships with other federal agencies and with industry will develop. Several partnerships, including with ATA Aerospace, which conducted the Red Bull Stratos flight, are already in progress.

Experiments: In addition to the common camera payloads that will provide near real time footage of the moon’s shadow on Earth and the darkened sun, teams will fly a secondary payload of their choice. Links to information and pictures about each team’s secondary payload will be included online. It is not necessary to fly the common camera payload to participate in the project as long as teams conform to our FAA and NASA safety requirements. In a second effort in collaboration with NOAA and NSF, dozens of radiosonde balloons will be flown to gather important science data on eclipse effects to our atmosphere.

Project White Paper Fact Sheet

Project White Paper

As of July 21, 2016, 52 teams from 30 different states across the United States have signed up for the national eclipse ballooning project and participated in the the May or July workshops! Coordination events will take place over the next year in order to get teams used to collaborating with each other as a progressive system and make for a successful nationwide event come eclipse day.

For general questions, please email shane.mayergawlik [at] montana.edu