SALEM - The Oregon Space Grant Consortium will showcase its aerospace activities and educational programs in a display this year at the Oregon State Fair, highlighted by a balloon launch that will take a package of instruments literally to the edge of Earth's atmosphere.

The exhibit will be open from Sept. 3-5, and a featured event will be the launch of a high-altitude balloon satellite at noon on Saturday, Sept. 4, which will be tracked with global positioning technology and eventually recovered by a "chase team" of Oregon students.

The Oregon Space Grant Consortium is based at Oregon State University and includes 19 affiliate members across the state at universities, museums, and private industry.

"The Space Grant Program has a direct impact on science and math education at all levels and contributes to science literacy across the nation," said Jack Higginbotham, an OSU professor of nuclear engineering and director of the program. "We're looking forward to participating this year in the Oregon State Fair, to let the public learn more about our activities and help people understand the broad benefits of engaging students in science and math activities."

Partners in this venture include OSU, Southern Oregon University, Portland State University, the Oregon Institute of Technology, FIRST Robotics Oregon teams, the Oregon NASA Explorer School, OSU and PSU microgravity teams, Pine Mountain Observatory and NASA Aerospace Education Specialists.

The Oregon Space Grant booth will open at 11 a.m. each day, and close at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 p.m. on Sunday. The public will have opportunities to:

  • Engage in hands-on activities such as constructing gliders and conducting gravitational experiments, presented by Oregon's NASA Aerospace Education Specialist.


  • Meet the Oregon Space Grant team and learn more about its program and mission.


  • See robots built by high school students around the state, members of Oregon FIRST Robotics Teams.


  • See video footage of actual flights taken by Oregon Microgravity Teams from OSU, PSU and OIT testing the effects of zero gravity, aboard NASA's KC-135 airplane in Houston.


  • Explore the night sky with Rick Kang's Electronic Universe, using footage taken from the Pine Mountain Observatory.


  • Meet Oregon's own NASA Explorer School Team from Sheridan, Ore.

Balloon launches will be another featured part of the event, sponsors say. All weekend, a PSU tethered balloon will hover high over the fairgrounds, transmitting an aerial view to an on-site video projector at the exhibit booth.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., two low altitude balloons will be launched from the fairgrounds, assisted by the Oregon FIRST Robotics teams and educators from the NASA Explorer School.

And on Saturday at noon, the OIT-SOU Balloon Team will launch a high-altitude balloon that will journey to the edge of the atmosphere, before its balloon bursts and the payload instruments float by parachute back to Earth and are recovered.

"For two years, our consortium has been building expertise among the faculty of four of our university affiliates to design, construct, and fly instrument packages using high altitude balloons," Higginbotham said. "This increases student exposure to the design requirements of space hardware and gives them a fun, hands-on experience with science, math and engineering activities."

Oregon Space Grant is a part of NASA's National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. It has served thousands of students and teachers since its inception in 1989.

"All of this is oriented towards preparing the next generation workforce in aerospace, science, engineering and technology," Higginbotham said. "Oregon Space Grant has a lot to contribute to that effort, and we think the State Fair will be a great place to share some of these activities with the Oregon public."