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Area boy shoots for the stars

July 4, 2011

Staff photo/Lance Mihm Mike Hemmelgarn, an educational specialist at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum, and Kaleb Helms demonstrate a moon rover project that they did in Young Astronauts.

Kaleb Helms comes off as a shy and soft-spoken 11-year-old boy. However, his actions often speak volumes.
After signing up for the Armstrong Air & Space Museum’s Young Astronauts Club, he has made astrobiology study a huge hobby. Spawning from that quest for knowledge, the young man has been on an advertising campaign that is raising enough money to rival the donations of most businesses at the cash-strapped museum.
“He has wanted to be an astronaut since he was three or four,” Kaleb’s mother, Dee Helms, said. “He has read every book that the library has on planets.”
The reading has paid off.
While making different attempts to get Kaleb to talk during the interview, he typically responded with short, one-word answers.
Suddenly, when asked about the principles of how a rocket works, Kaleb went on a 10-minute tear on the physics of rockets, complete with a description of why space shuttles cannot lift-off in the rain.
“The space shuttle can go so fast that it creates its own lightning,” Kaleb said. “In the rain, the main fuel cells will shut down.”
After becoming involved with the club, Kaleb immediately became involved helping to raise money for the museum after funding cuts from the state.
While selling popcorn with Cub Scouts, Kaleb received a new mountain bike for the Boy Scout’s annual popcorn sales.
Already owning a bicycle, he donated the bike to be raffled off for raising money for the museum.
Word quickly got out, and many businesses and private individuals have went to Kaleb for donations directed to the museum.
Most recently, Harold’s Bar in Delphos has donated a go-cart that will be auctioned off during the Summer Moon Festival in Wapakoneta.
The money being raised goes into the museum’s capital fund, which is being used to construct the new Tranquility Base Picnic Pavilion and for signage.
Mike Hemmelgarn, an education specialist at the museum, said donations inspired by Kaleb will approach approximately $800 with go-cart raffle sales.
“We have lost state funding and have been struggling,” Hemmelgarn said. “With the participation drummed up by Kaleb, he has raised donations that can go a long way at the museum.”
Kaleb has helped to spread his new interest, as he has encouraged trips that resulted in visits by both his school class and his scouting troop to the museum.
Kaleb has not yet picked out anything specifically as a goal in the astronaut field. Currently, he said he is just happy to learn what he can by keeping involved.

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