“It’s pure science:” Local teachers slated for NASA journey

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Two Milwaukee-area teachers will be heading to a special place -- out of this world, you might say. They've been chosen for a journey many will never be able to take.

Next week, Nicolet High School Physics Teacher Kathy Gustavson will reach for the stars as one of the educators chosen to be on the NASA SOFIA flight. SOFIA stands for Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy. Gustavson will board a highly-modified 747 -- taking a huge telescope into the stratosphere to take pictures of stars. They're pictures so clear, no Earthly telescope can compare.

Gustavson's part on the SOFIA flight is the director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Planetarium, Jean Creighton.

"I'm very excited. I'm excited  because when we applied we knew it was a long shot. Lots of people applied. I knew two people who applied in Wisconsin, it was all over the country. But when we found out, we were going to get to go, I thought, 'Wow, this is so awesome,'" said Creighton.

The Milwaukee educators will be one of twelve teams on board the flight. They'll get to accompany NASA scientists in their astronomy research -- becoming ambassadors to the world. A more Earthly goal -- to get kids interested and excited about science.

"You can just help kids see what pure science is. Somebody's going to say, what good is it. But it's pure science and you always learn something," said Gustavson.

The teachers will take off from California on Tuesday, March 25th.

The future of the SOFIA observatory is up in the air. NASA recently announced its funding will be put towards other projects after this year.

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