Liftoff for Northeast High SPARC program looks promising

For­get about dark mat­ter and God particles. A lot of the uni­verse seems to be pa­per­work. For the North­east High stu­dents who want to ex­plore space, the pa­per­work seems to be just about wrapped up. 

Now, they’ve got to work on tim­ing.

There’s money for the Space Re­search Cen­ter in North­east’s Med­ic­al, En­gin­eer­ing and Aerospace Mag­net School, and there’s a plan to keep it flow­ing, ac­cord­ing to pro­gram as­tro­naut alum Bur­ton Di­cht. 

Set­ting a date for the pro­gram’s an­nu­al spring mis­sion is yet to be done. Vir­tu­al liftoff to the In­ter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion is look­ing good for late May, but that might con­flict with some ex­am sched­ules, so the overnight flight is just be­ing penciled in for now. SPARC mis­sions to the moon, Mars or the ISS had been the end of April. 

Des­pite its dec­ades-long run at North­east, SPARC was cut this year like all oth­er non­s­ports ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies. Un­til an on­line fun­drais­ing drive brought in the cash to keep it go­ing, SPARC’s mis­sion con­trol room was look­ing to be dark and stay dark. Thou­sands were raised, said Di­cht, Class of 1977, who spear­headed the drive. In an April 25 in­ter­view, Di­cht said a charter and bylaws for a SPARC boost­er club were com­pleted on April 16 and a 14-mem­ber ad­vis­ory board com­posed of alumni, teach­ers, school ad­min­is­trat­ors and teach­ers was es­tab­lished.

More than $20,000 has been raised for SPARC so far. Some of that money, which came through the on­line drive that began early this year or through dir­ect dona­tions to the school’s alumni as­so­ci­ation, has been used for new equip­ment and new floor­ing in the Mis­sion Con­trol room, Di­cht said.

“We’re well-po­si­tioned for next year,” he said, and SPARC’s im­me­di­ate fu­ture is se­cure, he ad­ded.

The point of the boost­ers club is to keep the money com­ing in so there is no danger of SPARC clos­ing down.

An­oth­er SPARC alum, Col­or­ado busi­ness­man Gary Rosen­z­weig, donated eight new PCs, video gear and a large screen to the pro­gram. 

Money still is be­ing col­lec­ted to keep the pro­gram go­ing. Di­cht said web fun­drais­ing is con­tinu­ing at www.go­

Checks, pay­able to the “NEHS Alumni As­so­ci­ation Found­a­tion,” can be sent to: Joan Schei­deck­er, NEHS Alumni As­so­ci­ation, 1601 Cottman Ave., Phil­adelphia, PA 19111. Con­trib­ut­ors should write “Pro­ject SPARC Fund” in their checks’ memo fields. ••

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