To Infinity and Beyond!

When asked to picture New Hampshire, most people think of forests, sweeping mountain ranges and seafood as far as the eye can see. NASA doesn’t exactly come to mind. But believe it or not, NH has a thriving aerospace industry and a storied past of all things space-related. Apart from our small (and large) businesses that support space programs by manufacturing parts, New Hampshire actually has its very own Space Science Center located at the University of New Hampshire.

UNH has been designing, building, and delivering satellite instruments to NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) for over 30 years! They’ve had a hand in every major space weather satellite mission and they had even developed their very own student-built satellite called CATSAT. (CATSAT unfortunately never launched due to scheduling issues, but it’s currently hanging on display at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord).

Engineer Mark Granoff with student-built satellite “CATSAT” during installation at the McAuliffe Shepard Discovery Center in Concord.

Engineers, researchers and students alike all work together on these satellite instruments. NASA launched the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission in 2015 and UNH had over two dozen instruments on those four satellites. MMS currently holds the Guinness World Record for highest altitude GPS fix at 43,500 miles above the Earth’s surface, PLUS it holds a record for the closest separation of a multi-spacecraft formation (the spacecraft are flying only 4.5 miles apart). After MMS, UNH worked on the Parker Solar Probe mission, NASA’s mission to “touch the sun.” Currently, the Space Science Center has a contract for the GLIMR satellite instrument, which will study coastal ecosystems near the Gulf of Mexico.

MMS spacecraft being encapsulated prior to launch in 2015. Photo credit: NASA.

Fun Fact:

Did you know that the New Boston Air Force Station tracks satellites over the East Coast? Codenamed BOSS, they’ve been helping to provide telemetry data since the 1960s. You can even hear them in the commentary for SpaceX launches!

There’s more to space in New Hampshire than just satellites. Along with the Space Science Center and the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, there are local groups like the New Hampshire Astronomical Society who hold local stargazing events in almost every region around NH. You can find them in downtown Portsmouth on the first Saturday of every month, they have monthly Skywatches at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, there are stargazing series at Castle in the Clouds and they even hold events at the Mount Washington Observatory’s Weather Discovery Center.

All of these amazing space-related groups are converging on Portsmouth this summer for the space event of the year! On July 15th, come join myself and other people interested in space at 3S Artspace for Yuri’s Night Portsmouth: a social, educational, and artistic celebration of humanity’s first steps into the “final frontier.” Yuri’s Night is an international celebration (and space holiday) that was started almost 20 years ago to honor the night that humankind first went into space.

It was April 12, 1961 when Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was shot into space completing one lap around the Earth and firing the imagination of humans around the world. Looking back since that day, we’ve landed humans on the moon, explored the outer reaches of the solar system, and are talking about the possibility of a real “warp” drive—currently under study at NASA — that could one day take us to the stars.

Join us for an evening of fun and exploration featuring real astrophysicists, rocket scientists and astronomers! On tap for the evening are special speakers talking about our future in space, short videos featuring current and future missions to the beyond, and outdoor telescope views of night sky favorites put on by members of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society.

NOTE: Historically Yuri’s Night is held on April 12, due to health precautions this year the event was moved to July 15.

Northern lights (or aurora borealis) are visible in the White Mountains during summer months. Photo credit: Daniel LaShomb Photography.

About the Author

Caleigh MacPherson is a Program Manager and Mechanical Engineer from New Hampshire. She has been honored as one of the state’s Rising Stars Awards Young Professionals of the Year, 40 under Forty, and 10 to Watch award winners for her STEM volunteer work. She is a NASA Solar System Ambassador and in her spare time she attends NASA Socials and builds robots for fun. Follow along on Instagram and Twitter @ScottishRobot.

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