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Physics students launch Dockery bobblehead into orbit

A David S. Dockery bobblehead ascends to the borders of space, attached to a high-altitude weather balloon launched by physics students. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
A David S. Dockery bobblehead ascends to the borders of space, attached to a high-altitude weather balloon launched by physics students. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.Sept. 27, 2013 – Union University President David S. Dockery made a trip to space on Friday afternoon. Or at least, his bobblehead did.

Members of Union’s Society of Physics students, in an effort to honor Dockery for his 18 years of service to the university, launched a high-altitude weather balloon Sept. 27 with a Dockery bobblehead in tow.

Josh Edgren, a sophomore from Lakewood, Wash., who was one of the students to lead the event, addressed Dockery on the Great Lawn prior to the launch.

“We are neither the first nor the most prestigious organization to seek to honor you, but we offer our thanks and our respect humbly and hope that you will be honored by this somewhat unusual demonstration,” Edgren said.

Though the original plan was for an attached camera to record the Dockery likeness in what is considered "near space," the students altered the plan when the whole capsule proved too heavy. Regardless, dozens of Union students, faculty and staff cheered the balloon’s release as it soared into the sky above Miller Tower.

The physics students estimated that the balloon would climb to about 90,000 feet before the bobblehead would parachute to earth.

“Dr. Dockery will join the small number of university presidents who have had representations of themselves enter space,” Edgren said. “To be completely honest, I know of no other case, so I tentatively say that Dr. Dockery is about to go where no university president has gone before.”

The original idea for the project came from Union physics professor Fonsie Guilaran, but Guilaran said that the Society of Physics students were the ones who developed the idea entirely and completed all the work to make it happen.

“This is one of the most exciting days of my life,” Dockery said as he awaited the launch. “I think it’s so cool what they’ve done. I guess this makes the DSD bobblehead the equivalent of Alan Shepard in the 1960s. It’s a great honor. It truly is.”


Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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