It’s a liftoff

Kalaimoana Garcia, a student at the Kapiolani Community College on Oahu, said he won’t forget watching the rocket lift off Wednesday morning in Virginia.

“You just see the thing ignite and shoot off into the sky,” Garcia said. “It’s the most amazing feeling in the world, especially since we’ve been working on this project for more than a year.”

Garcia was among the throng of viewers watching their scientific payload spin into space aboard a two-stage Terrier-improved Malemute sounding rocket that launched at midnight Hawaii time from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The planned launch was delayed by a day due to weather conditions.

“We are finally seeing all of our hard work pay off,” Garcia said. “I mean, we’re not out of the woods, yet. We still got to get our data, but just that initial, that we made it here, and we got it into space. That is the greatest feeling, ever.”

The scientific instrument forms the main component of Project Imua, the collaborative effort by four of the University of Hawaii’s system of community college. It consists of an ultaviolet spectrometer, which will analyze the intensity of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation before it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. This data could have implications regarding Earth’s climate.

“This is really a systemwide collaboration,” said Marcus Yamaguchi, Kauai Community College student. “This is an effort to bring new industry and new technology into the Hawaii economy.”

The Hawaii Community College students, the only community college to be selected among the seven higher education programs, are part of the collaboration known as Project Imua, translated from Hawaiian to mean “to move forward.”

Project Imua, funded by a two-year $500,000 grant, involves a joint faculty-student enterprise for designing, fabricating, and testing payloads from four community college campuses, including the KCC, Windward Community College, Honolulu Community College, and Kapiolani Community College.

The launch, catapulted the payload to an altitude of 94 miles. Plans include recovering the payload from the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia coast and provided to the student teams to analyze.

“We can do anything just like anywhere else in the world,” said Suraj Mehta, a HCC student. “We have facilities and we have come so far.”

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