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Mission 4 & More!

“The BV Space Program launched a weather balloon carrying the Space Panther One (a styrofoam cooler approximately 1.5 feet square covered in Gorilla tape and filled with recording devices) at 7:55am on March 2,2013. It traveled 251.03 horizontal miles and landed in the northern Nevada desert at approximately 1:25pm. It was the Space Panther One’s second voyage to space. It was retrieved at 2pm on March 5, 2013. The craft averaged 45.64 horizontal miles per hour, at times reaching speeds of up to 100 mph. Peak altitude is, as of now, unknown. Mission objectives included testing the functionality of solar panels in space, exposing a variety of plant seeds to cosmic and solar radiation to test effects on growth, capturing high-resolution still images in space, capturing high-definition video from peak altitude, eliminating the camera fogging experienced in previous missions, and recording temperature and humidity data from high altitudes. The craft traveled approximately one-tenth of the way across the United States and soared approximately 80,000 feet above the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.” —BV Space Program

Teachers Jim Snyder and Jacob Bagnell went to Nevada with a truck and a dirt bike to find and bring back Space Panther One. This launch went about four times farther than any of the previous BV Space Club missions. They inflated this balloon with less helium so that it had less lift and one theory is that it moved sideways more easily and that it was swept along by a naturally occurring jet stream. The launch was on Saturday, they drove to Reno on Sunday and early Monday morning they drove 80 miles north east of Reno and Pyramid Lake in the high desert. Interestingly there is a law in Nevada that you cannot lock a gate on cattle range land so they were able to drive as far as their truck would tolerate then open a gate to continue with both of them on the dirt bike. The plan was to go the last 16 miles on the bike. With the high altitude, rough terrain and two riders the bike was gobbling gas and after only 8 miles they checked the tank and it was almost empty (a bad moment). They knew they would never make the landing spot so decided to return to the truck.

Unfortunately the bike putt-putt-putted to a stop after about 2.5 miles so they had to ditch the bike and start walking. They had GPS readings to guide them on the desert which was criss-crossed with various tracks. When they got to within about two miles of the truck it was looking like it was a straight up hike and they were pretty worn out. Happily they spotted a lone rancher with a truck that they had passed on the way in and he agreed to drive them that last steep climb back to the rented truck. They returned to Reno. The next day bright and early they rented a four-wheel drive truck and headed back to get Panther One and retrieve the bike. The last 2.5 miles was so rough that the truck could not make it in so they had to hike. Finally Jacob spied the yellow rope as it slumped against Panther One in a loopy pattern. It is somewhat miraculous that for all the four BV Space Program missions they have been able to find and bring back the crafts, cameras and popped weather balloons. It took them 55 minutes to hike that last 2.5 miles in and only 30 minutes to hike back out they were so pumped up with adrenaline from the find. The wind was so strong that it had knocked over the bike and they had to search around to find it.

Then there was the getting back to Reno, returning the truck and getting back home around midnight when both teachers had to teach the next day. The reason they don’t take students to retrieve is that you never know what you will find.

In other BV Space Club action Variety Show attendees on Saturday night were invited to adjourn to the parking lot at intermission to watch a launch of rockets by rocketeers Hugo Chavez, David Tenney and Carlos Garibay with rocket master and master of ceremonies science teacher Jacob Bagnell. When we got out there we saw that a whole launch pad had been assembled while we were watching the first half of the show. The rocket men looked very official in their white lab coats and safety glasses. Mr. Bagnell told they to insert the launch keys and he asked the crowd to count down. Using electric current the rockets blasted off much to our amazement and delight. Keevan Labowitz with his magnetic personality almost got bonked by one of the rockets returning to earth.

But as Mr. Bagnell pointed out that would be something like being hit by a toilet paper roll since the nose cone was off. The second rocket was large and appropriately named “Big Bertha.” This rocket was fueled with potassium nitrate. We were all wowed by the whole performance.

Visiting Mr. Bagnell yesterday to interview him for this write-up he was surrounded by after school club students working on bike repair. Carlos Espinoza who was working with a bike on the table we were sitting at explained to me that a rocket coming down returns to earth with even more force than at launch. This makes sense since it fights gravity on the way up and gravity is working with it on the way down. Several times during the interview Jacob had the students answer my questions and there was no hesitation as they answered energetically and with much detail. In other words these young men were “into it.”

When I went to high school we had nothing even remotely like this project happening even though we were walking on the moon at around this time careers as an astronauts or rocket scientists were actually viable choices. Critics of the education that happens at Anderson Valley High might take note. We missed Jim Snyder father of the Boonville Space Program at the launch as he was on Dad duty. His contribution to the Boonville Space Program is enormous- without him it never would have happened. Jacob Bagnell with his vitality, curiosity and cheerful outlook is one of our most precious AVHS natural teaching resources.

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