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Two area teachers are preparing for takeoff in a NASA-funded research observation adventure. written by Melanie Crownover photographed by Joe Worthem

SOMEWHERE IN THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE, a group of scientists sits above the clouds in a Boeing 747SP known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) bouncing invisible light into space. Their NASA-funded research helps define the phenomena of this world and expands existing knowledge of the galaxies around it. Connie Gusmus of Guntown Middle School and Bob Swanson of Itawamba Community College will be part of it later this year. The two science instructors make up one of 11 educator teams chosen for NASA’s 2016 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program. They will board the SOFIA in California for a week of research observation in December. For Gusmus and Swanson, the experience could affect their students’ understanding of scientific processes used to explore the universe as much as their own. “I’m above Cloud 99 to have this chance to learn firsthand about something I’ve read about for years, but I’m even more excited to bring it back to my students,” Gusmus said. “That’s my real big chance – to touch the future by giving them information that may August 2016 | INVITATION TUPELO


Invitation Tupelo - August 2016