“Last year, high school science teacher Ron Dantowitz of Brookline, Mass., played a clever trick on three of his best students. He asked them to plan a hypothetical mission to fly onboard a NASA DC-8 aircraft and observe a spacecraft disintegrate as it came screaming into Earth’s atmosphere. How would they record the event? What could they learn?
“For 6 months, they worked hard on their assignment, never suspecting the surprise Dantowitz had in store.
“On March 12th, he stunned them with the news: ‘The mission is real, and you’re going along for the ride.’”
NASA reports on three teenage students who made very real contributions to science when they developed observational, tracking and spectroscopic procedures to analyze the high speed re-entry to earth’s atmosphere of Japan’s Hayabusa probe, returning from its sample mission to asteroid Itokawa.
See Students Record Spellbinding Video of Disintegrating Spacecraft, complete with video of the fiery re-entry.
For more, see the Hayabusa Re-Entry Airborne Observing Campaign website and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa website.