Roadrunners Take Flight: LBCC Space Club will capture rare footage of upcoming eclipse

The club at the Jan. 14 launch.

The Linn-Benton Community College Space Exploration Club is taking part in a historic project.

Students of the LBCC Space Exploration Club are currently working on a high altitude balloon project for the upcoming solar eclipse that will occur later this year on Aug. 21. This eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental United States since 1979.

The club is one of 54 teams across the nation that is working with the NASA Space Grant Network to conduct balloon flights from one of 15-20 locations across the eclipse’s path as it passes over the country. The 54 teams will launch video payloads aboard high altitude balloons that will take near space footage of the eclipse. The video images will then be sent live to the NASA website, where it will be livestreamed and viewed by people around the world. Near-space footage of a total solar eclipse has only been taken once in history, and has never been livestreamed before.

“How often can community college students say they worked on something seen by tens of millions of people?” said Levi Willmeth, student manager of the project.

The LBCC Space Exploration Club hopes to collaborate with Oregon State University engineers and launch their balloon aboard one of Oregon State’s research ships off the coast of Oregon. The group is hard at work perfecting the launch process and the technology involved with the video payload. They hope to be ready for the dry run of the final project that will occur later this year in June.

This project is just the latest in a line of ambitious endeavors the club has worked on in recent years. The group built and programmed a scientific payload that flew on board a NASA research rocket at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in 2015. Just last year, the club worked on another rocket borne payload known as a gamma ray polarimeter, which is designed to measure polarized radiation from gamma rays in space.

“This can be a real gateway for a career in aerospace,” said Parker Swanson, club adviser and LBCC instructor of computer programming, networks and operating systems.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the Space Exploration Club and this once-in-a-lifetime project is encouraged to contact Swanson or Willmeth. You can also visit one of the club’s meetings, which are held on Saturdays at 10 a.m. in IA 215. Email: parker.swanson@linnbenton.edu

Story by Joshua Stickrod

Photos by LBCC Space Exploration Club

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