Utah teachers spend weeks as part of NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program

Dec 20, 2021, 12:09 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah teachers took a trip of a lifetime, courtesy of NASA. They got to hop aboard a jumbo jet called SOFIA – which is NASA’s flying telescope.

Maughan and Castleton were among 30 U.S. educators chosen for this prestigious astrophysics teacher training program.

They talked to KSL’s Tamara Vaifanua via Zoom about what this mission means for them and their students.

Milo Maughan teaches at Corner Canyon High and Clief Castleton at Hillcrest High, but for the past couple of weeks, they’ve been part of the NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program.

“Milo and I are sorta Star Trek nerds and trekkers,” Castleton said.

They’ve documented their journey on SOFIA — the only airborne observatory in the world — to share with their students back in Utah. They were able to observe and interact with scientists and mission crew members.

“To actually be there in person and watch the telescope in action gathering data and everything was just unreal,” Maughan said.

Castleton said the whole experience has been unreal.

“When we got up the stairs, I had to just put my hands on the hull and just let SOFIA kinda talk to me,” he said.

While their mission was temporary, their next stop is their own classrooms — inspiring a new generation. They’ll get to take back a whole new curriculum, courtesy of NASA.

“Where these kids are now and where they will be in their future, there really is no limit,” Castleton said.

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Utah teachers spend weeks as part of NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program