Hart science teacher selected to fly NASA mission

Hart High School science teacher Kathryn Smith has been named by NASA and the SET Institute as one of 28 teachers from across the country chosen to fly aboard NASA’s airborne space laboratory. Courtesy photo

Government teachers consider themselves fortunate when they take students to Washington, D.C., and art teachers get excited when their class is going to the Getty.

But few teachers ever get an opportunity like Hart High School science teacher Kathryn Smith, who has been named by NASA and the SET Institute as one of 28 teachers from across the country chosen to fly aboard NASA’s airborne space laboratory.

Becoming the 13th Hart District educator to be selected for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission, Smith will be invited in the fall to train for a week at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, according to a press release distributed Thursday by the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Once she’s been given the all-clear by NASA’s training instructors, she is scheduled to embark on two missions with SOFIA, and on each flight she will observe and/or participate in scientific experiments and research.

After she has completed both flights, she will bring back to her classroom and students a curriculum provided by NASA researchers.

“I am so grateful to be a part of NASA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassador program this year,” Smith said in the release. “I’m looking forward to learning more about how we study the universe using infrared telescopes on the SOFIA flying laboratory.”

The SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747 airliner with an attached telescope, several cameras and spectrographs. It cruises at an altitude between 39,000 and 45,000 feet, according to officials.

In years past, teachers who take the 10-hour overnight flight say that, while it is a long journey, it was a worthwhile endeavor.

“NASA’s SOFIA observatory provides a fantastic opportunity for teachers to better understand and appreciate the research process by interacting with scientists and mission crew members,” said Dana Backman, AAA program principal investigator. “The teachers can then take what they learn back to their classrooms, schools and school districts, conveying the value of scientific research and adding real-world content to high school learning environment.”

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