To the moon

Ground Control: Astronauts Marlene H. Wijaya and Ivy Kuang took a trip to the moon last Friday.

A piece of chocolate donut created a medical emergency in space last Friday.

An astronaut from the Space Research Center inside the Medical, Engineering and Aerospace Magnet School at North-east High had an allergic reaction to something in the snack.

The stricken astronaut was on one of SPARC’s virtual space voyages last week and had to get some virtual medicine so the decades-old extracurricular science program could continue its latest flight.

Last Friday’s flight’s goal was to start building a special protective structure on the moon and leave some plants there to see how they survive on the lunar surface. The protection is needed since the moon doesn’t have the atmosphere that Earth does to shield living things from radiation.

All of this, of course, is simulated — and heavily scripted — but the teamwork that goes into all of SPARC’s exercises is real.

SPARC has six subdivisions in which students can specialize: Flight, Medical, Computers, Administration, Engineering and Robotics.

Each of the subdivisions has responsibilities and activities outside of the flight. For example, the medical team will all become certified in CPR. The robotics team has multiple competitions in which to participate. Engineering has some in-house and some outer competitions in which to participate.

Project SPARC has existed since the early 1960s and has its own space shuttle mockup as well as a real space capsule that was donated by NASA.

Every trip that SPARC takes has a surprise built into the script. Well, it’s not a big surprise since everyone knows there will be one, but not everyone knows exactly what is going to happen and when. During a flight last year, three astronauts “died” in space.

Friday’s flight was scripted by sophomore Anthony Garcia, who found information about graphene as he did some research. Graphene is 100 percent carbon, Garcia said last week, and it is, again virtually speaking, the material SPARC’s astronauts are using to build protective structures on the moon.

“It can be one atom thick,” Garcia said. It’s harder than diamonds, he said, and 200 times stronger than steel. Since, it weighs so much less than steel, it’s a perfect material to carry into space. It’s not man-made, Garcia said, but can be found in graphite — the stuff that’s in pencils.

The Dec. 12 flight obviously is both a warm-up and a set-up for the two-day lunar mission SPARC is planning for April, said SPARC’s director, Joseph Connelly, a Northeast High math teacher.

The annual overnight mission is one the kids look forward to. Over the years, SPARC crews have gone to the moon, Mars and the International Space Station.

The astronauts were Timothy Doyle, Jonathan Seitz, Leon Frame, Marlene H. Wijaya, Ivy Kuang and Tyler Mallon, who also was computer division manager and flight division manager.

Among the many students who participated in SPARC’s Dec. 12 moon flight were Garcia, who served as flight director and flight division manager, and computer division manager; senior Aleksandra Tiy and junior Ancy John, spokeswomen; Lauren Rooney, senior, project coordinator and administration division manager; senior Mengchhay Kong and junior Cameron Rovar, engineering division managers; senior Tyler Mallon, computer division manager and flight division manager; seniors Prem Patel and Cuong Tran, robotics managers; senior Rebecca Lee and junior Elizabeth Meckler, medical managers.

The educators who participated were Connelly; Carole Niemiec, sponsor of the robotics division; Anne Johnson, Northeast’s school nurse and sponsor of the medical division; Christopher Frank, magnet school director; and Christopher Lynch, flight division sponsor. ••

Success in space: Astronauts Jonathan Seitz and Leon Frame work from the Space Research Center inside Northeast High School. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

Space odyssey: The SPARC student body team at Northeast High School checks the control panels for the most recent flight. Astronauts from the Space Research Center inside Northeast High School took a trip to the moon last Friday. The flight’s goal was to start building a special protective structure on the moon and leave some plants there to see how they survive on the lunar surface.