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Draper middle school teacher heading to stratosphere through prestigious NASA program

Posted at 9:18 AM, Sep 13, 2022

DRAPER, Utah — A middle school teacher is preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Jennifer Muir, an 8th-grade science teacher at Draper Park Middle School, was selected to be a NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador.

The highly competitive application process culminated with just 24 teachers nationwide selected for the program.

Ms. Muir was the only Utahn chosen.

The program allows educators to take part in a pair of flights aboard SOFIA – the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

“We will be on a 10-hour night flight zig zagging all over, up into Canadian airspace and then back down,” Ms. Muir said. “We’ll be taking pictures of different targets in the universe – anywhere from the moon to distant galaxies and distant nebulas.”

NASA describes SOFIA as the world’s largest flying observatory. It is credited with discovering water on the surface of the moon.

“The steps the scientists and researchers go through to get time on SOFIA, they have to make proposals and have abstracts,” Ms. Muir said.

Her two flights to the stratosphere are scheduled to depart from southern California on Tuesday and Friday evening.

She is taking this journey with her students in mind and hopes to bring back a wealth of new knowledge to provide more depth in her courses than what’s included in a textbook.

“Not just being able to say this is what we know, but be able to show them how we know it,” Ms. Muir said. “It’s important for them to understand space – so they understand how unique Earth is.”