By Brittany Hope
SACRAMENTO, California (KCRA-D2) — “This is the closest thing I’ll ever get to being an astronaut.”
After a year setback due to COVID-19 closures, Domina Stamas’s dream is finally coming true: Flying into the stratosphere on a NASA mission.
Stamas was born and raised in Sacramento and now is a teacher at the newly opened Westlake Charter High School in Natomas.
She’s been a teacher for 11 years and previously worked at Sacramento High School.
“I was one of 28 educators in the country selected to participate in this very unique program,” Stamas told KCRA 3.
That program, called “Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors,” works to give high school STEM teachers real-world experience to bring back to their classrooms.
Stamas has spent the past few days in Palmdale, California, doing special training for the flight at the NASA Armstrong Research Facility.
Stamas says she and three other teachers will be the first educators since 2019 to fly into the stratosphere aboard the SOFIA aircraft. (SOFIA stands for “Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.”)
The telescope, which calls the Boeing 747 SP home, has infrared technology that allows it to take photos of the universe.
Stamas says the telescope was responsible for discovering water on the bright side of the moon, proving Pluto has an active atmosphere and showing that Jupiter emits more heat than it receives.
That aircraft flies up to 50,000 feet in the air; commercial flights only fly 30,000 to 40,000 feet high.
“I cannot reveal our flight path,” Stamas tells KCRA 3.
She says the SOFIA mission locations and search subjects are kept confidential until NASA decides to release the details.
“I’m excited to see, hopefully, that I will be part of a mission that finds what they’re looking for,” Stamas says.
The goal of the program is for the 28 selected educators to take what they learned during their flights back to their high school classrooms to inspire students to go into STEM fields.
“I just hope this shows my students, and anybody really, to go for your passion,” Stamas says. “Just keep going.”
SOFIA is set to fly into the atmosphere around 7:55 p.m. Monday evening.
Stamas says the flight should land back on the ground Tuesday morning around 5 a.m.
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