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North Bay teacher shooting for moon at international NASA event

A North Bay teacher is getting ready to showcase northern Ontario science at a major international event.

Kelly Shulman caught the space agency's eye with a class experiment and clever Apollo homage

Kelly Shulman and her Grade 12 class sent a weather balloon with a payload including a little astronaut, representing Neil Armstrong. (Supplied)

A North Bay teacher is getting ready to showcase northern Ontario science at a major international event.

In October, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is holding its International Observe the Moon event at the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. It will feature a presentation by Kelly Shulman, a teacher at West Ferris Secondary School in North Bay.

Shulman teaches physics, math, and computer science. She also leads the West Ferris Near Space Program.

International Observe the Moon Night is an annual worldwide public event, this year on October 5, that encourages observation and appreciation of the moon.

Earlier this year, Shulman's students successfully completed what they called the Moonshot Mission to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing.

"The students in my Grade 12 physics class conducted a high altitude balloon or a stratospheric balloon launch," Shulman said. "What we do is the students sort of set mission goals and then they design a payload, including scientific experiments."

Shulman's Grade 12 class launched this weather balloon in May. (T. Martineau)

Students then launched the payload into the stratosphere using a weather balloon, tracking it using radio technology and analyzing the images and video that come back on its return. 

This payload also included a lunar scene, complete with little astronaut holding a flag that read 50, to represent Neil Armstrong, she said.

"The mission was a great success," she said. "We put it up there, then retrieved our payload from just outside Powassan and then we got all the images and data off of it. So we were able to capture images of the lunar landing scene at an altitude of over 30 kilometres."

"You can see the little astronaut, the guy with the flag, and it's all very clear and the curvature of the Earth is in the background."  

Shulman says all of the students involved with the Apollo 19 mission graduated, and are currently in university. (T. Martineau)

Following the experiment, Shulman contacted NASA and sent them some images from the launch field. The experiment caught NASA's eye, and they invited Shulman to talk about it at this year's event.

"The students are very excited," she said. "The one unfortunate thing I think is it was a Grade 12 class that I did this with and so every single student that was on the mission is off at university, which I guess is kind of a big success story."

She said her current group of students is already preparing for the next mission, which Shulman expects to launch in the spring. 

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