Local students work with NASA for solar eclipse coverage

Ashland, Ore. — With just eleven days until the big day, some North Medford High School students are working with NASA to send a balloon into the atmosphere to capture the event on camera. Thursday, they completed their final test run. Ten students, four mentors, and one major assignment.

“Oh my God, it just gets really exciting and more exciting the day that it’s coming closer,” said NMHS student Apoorva Singh.

A handful of seniors from NMHS are experiencing not just one, but two opportunities of a lifetime, getting a front-row seat to the solar eclipse and teaming up with NASA to livestream the event.

“That’s pretty cool, I’m not going to lie. That’s pretty cool. I’ve bragged about that to quite a few people, you know – I work with NASA,” said NMHS student Alexander Hoppe.

“I try and play it a little bit humble, but it’s hard not to brag,” said NMHS student Nick Winetrout.

“It’s really fun – sometimes it’s a little hard but you just push through and it’s a really fun experience to have,” Singh said.

It’s been a two-year journey for the group.

“I didn’t realize that it would be two years of intense science, technology, test – but it’s pretty awesome,” Hoppe said.

“The whole process coming from sophomore year to now, you know looking back on it – it’s been a lot of fun,” Winetrout said.

The light at the end of the tunnel is near. On August 21st, the group will launch two balloons. One for them and one for NASA.

“The NASA payload will be equipped with certain sensors and mainly a camera, and the ability to transmit live video feed from that camera back to the ground which we will then through the internet give directly to NASA,” Hoppe said.

The footage the students’ team films will be placed on NASA television to play worldwide during the eclipse, and with that kind of coverage comes pressure from all angles.

“Not going to lie, we don’t want to screw up. That would be very detrimental to our egos and the world really. We’re going to have a prime viewing spot of the eclipse,” Hoppe said.

“At the same time we’re also getting really nervous because we want everything to go perfect,” Singh said.

This group was also one of the few teams able to successfully stream video on NASA’s exact test time and date.

“I think we hold a reasonable amount of time and value to NASA in that respect, so if we screw up – that would be bad,” Hoppe said.

With two years and hundreds of hours invested, that isn’t likely to happen. And even if something goes wrong. One thing will work exactly the way it’s supposed to – the dance between the Sun, the Moon and the Earth.

“This is a once in a lifetime event. So see the eclipse – it’s a two-hour drive to totality and it’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be midnight in the middle of the day,” Hoppe said.

The students and their mentors will head to Dayville next Friday to prepare for the big event.

NBC5 News asked what these students aspire to be after high school. They told us they’re aiming for careers in engineering, nuclear science and maybe even astronauts.

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