COC students selected to participate in NASA-sponsored project

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: College of the Canyons' HASP project contained parts that were built at the Center for Applied and Competitive Technologies and in the on-campus MakerSpace. Aug. 22, 2018

The College of the Canyons Aerospace and Sciences Team announced a new 24-member team to participate in NASA’s High Altitude Student Platform, or HASP, program. 

The COC AST team is planning to build a compact scintillator — a tool that converts high-energy radiation to visible light — and place it on a high-altitude balloon that will carry it to an altitude of 100,000 feet for 14 hours. 

“Our goal is to collect data on the frequency of antimatter collisions in the upper stratosphere,” said Sean Tomer, NASA HASP project manager for 2021, in an announcement distributed Thursday by COC. “This should give us a better understanding of the composition and origin of the universe.” 

Since 2015, COC has flown four high-altitude balloon missions aboard the NASA HASP system: two to collect interplanetary dust particles, and two to neutralize harmful acids within the upper stratosphere. 

 “It is very exciting to have been selected once again for this prestigious program,” said Teresa Ciardi, a physical science professor at the college. “The team has worked very hard despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and it has clearly paid off.” 

The team, co-advised by Ciardi and Greg Poteat, has said it will spend the rest of the spring 2021 semester building and testing their HASP experiment.  

The project is then scheduled to be vacuum and thermal tested at NASA’s Columbia Science Balloon Facility in Texas over the summer and will then launch on Sept. 6 from NASA’s site in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.   

“I am extremely proud of this team, which came together despite the challenges posed by this pandemic,” Tomer said. “I think it’s because we all share this passion for scientific discovery. Plus, Teresa and Gregory have inspired all of us so much, and they have provided incredible support every step of the way. We look forward to a successful launch and collection of data.” 

 For more information about COC AST, visit 

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