Todd Kohorst ’07

Posted on November 2nd, 2015 by

Todd (in the spacesuit) with Russian spacesuit designer, Nikolay Moiseev

Todd Kohorst ’07 is a 6th grade science teacher at Boeckman Middle school in Farmington, MN. He spent 4 days participating in a space scientist training program called Project PoSSUM at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach Florida over October’s MEA weekend. The project goal is to study noctilucent clouds in the upper mesosphere which have been increasing over time. Scientists wonder if they are linked to climate change and if they pose an increased risk to space shuttles re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Todd shares of his experience: “The whole experience was awesome. We did a high altitude chamber program in which they lowered our oxygen as we were flying a flight simulator to see how we would respond. The point was to recognize when we were becoming hypoxic and to put the oxygen mask on before we would pass out. This is done in response to flights that have depressurized (get a small hole in them) and the pilots have passed out before they put on their oxygen masks or released everyone else’s oxygen masks, and eventually the plane ran out of fuel and crashed, and everyone died as a result. This is what happened on the plane crash that Payne Stewart the golfer was on. The doctors were very intrigued at my results as I still had 86% of my oxygen at simulated 22,000 ft, which they have never seen anyone that high before. Most people were around 55-60%. My best hypothesis for this is that I have donated double red blood cells at blood drives in the past, so I may have more red blood cells that most people.

The next day I flew the suborbital flight simulator in the scientist seat while wearing a spacesuit from Final Frontier Designs. Nikolay Moiseev, a Russian spacesuit designer (probably top in the world) was very happy that I fit into the spacesuit as I think I am the biggest person to wear a spacesuit. The simulator had the science instruments and camera systems that will be used on the actual flight as well as big screens simulating Fairbanks Alaska. The whole flight is less than 30 minutes, and the first 10 minutes is when all of the data is gathered. All of the fuel in the spacecraft is burned up in 3 minutes, and we are just coasting up and then down from that point on and just glide back to the airport like a paper airplane.

The final day I did a high-G and zero-G flight on an Extra 300 prop plane in which I was in the front and the pilot was in the back. We did loops left and right and up and down giving us 2 G’s and 3 G’s of force. The final part was flying upside down and then curling up, which was -2 G’s in the Z-axis (top of the head) which made some people pass out and vomit. Luckily, I didn’t do either of those and I actually thought it was fun. I felt a little quesy afterwards and pretty tired, but it was definitely the most fun flight I have ever been on.

I have talked about my experience every day in my classroom in some way. All of the science that I learned while I was down there is middle school science: engineering, gravity, friction, air resistance, circulatory system, matter, materials, forces, motion, clouds, climate, climate change, etc. Right now we are doing our engineering unit and I have talked a lot about how the first space shuttles were engineering, and how NASA used the same engineering process that we used to build our “humdingers”.

I am very thankful for the support I have received from Dan Miller, Boeckman’s BLT, and everyone at Farmington Schools. This has been an awesome experience for me and I look forward to continuing to share everything I do as I move forward with trying to fly to suborbital space in the next couple of years.”

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