Teens spend a pittance to send balloon close to the edge of space

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Okay, "edge of space" is a bit of an exaggeration. Actually the middle of the stratosphere, and a third of the way to the official border of space.

This seems very appropriate for this year as the International Year of Astronomy:

(some of the measurements changed to metric by me)
Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 32 kilometres above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year.

Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta­ Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.
"The balloon we chose was inflated with helium to just over two metres and weighed just 1500 grams," said Gerard. "It was able to carry the sensor equipment and digital Nikon camera which weighed 1.5kg.

"However, when we launched at 9.10am on that morning the critical point for the experiment was to see if the balloon would make it past 10,000m, which is the altitude that commercial airliners fly at."

Due to the changing atmospheric pressures, the helium weather balloon carrying the meteorological equipment was expected to inflate to a maximum of nine and a half metres as it travelled upwards at 270 metres-per-minute.

"We took readings as the balloon rose and mapped its progress using Google Earth and the onboard radio receiver," said Gerard.

"At over 30,000 m the balloon lost its inflation and the equipment was returned to the earth.
The article has a bit of an odd part though; it starts out with:
Proving that you don't need Google's billions or the BBC weather centre's resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.
But later on (as you can see above) it mentions that they used Google Earth to monitor the balloon's location. So it turns out you do need Google's billions to do it. Sure, you're not actually using direct funding but without these billions the project would never have been possible.

And in other news, the Galileoscopes are now available, though delivery won't be until late April.


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