Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I found out where balloons go...

The space balloon launch was a total success. The first one sank to Earth. We added more Helium and the second flight rose about 20ft before crashing into some trees and power lines. Luckily the tree ripped the FAA-required radar reflector off of the craft and then the balloon rose over the treeline and was on its way.

We relocated to Panera Bread in Rolla and watched the Internet and data packets as the balloon climbed to ~30,000ft, where it took off like it had a rocket up its ass. By the time we got into cars and on the road, it was at 52,000ft. We sped to Jeff City where Mark knew an amateur radio guy whose name I didn't get. We watched the internet for about 15 mins before the balloon burst when it was at 96,649ft and the payload fell to Earth near Ashland, MO.

At the bottom of a 200ft deep canyon. And it landed 50ft up a tree. With no limbs. Really. The rest of the party carefully hiked down into a canyon where the tree was located, and I took the express route. I slipped, fell, rolled down about 50ft, scraping and cutting myself *all over*, coming to rest when my back struck a solid tree.

We were lucky. I could walk and didn't have to be extricated by helicopter. When we got to the top of the canyon, we met the guy that owned the place. He was a great guy and not only let us cut the tree down, but gave us the axe to do it and gave everyone Cokes/beer/water and let me clean up at the pump after my fall.

"You'll have Poison Ivy. If you get it." Oh, good.

The APRS tracking system worked perfectly. We were heard as far as Tennessee and Ontario, Canada using only a 3 Watt handheld transmitter. The onboard battery continued to transmit for another two hours after touchdown while others in the party cut the tree down. We got the payload back in excellent condition with the exception of the antenna, which had a couple of broken dowels and will have to be remade. The onboard M&Ms were all cracked, but they're fine, and will be sold on eBay ASAP.

Best news is that I apparently don't get Poison Ivy/Oak.

Now I know where the balloons go - Ashland, MO.

More pics here.


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