Helium balloons are a viable way to get equipment up into parts of the atmosphere; they are cheaper than flying an airplane and can go higher. Thursday night I watched a group of students from Texas launch a balloon carrying cameras. They launched others while in Fairbanks, but mostly from parking lots; this time they got to come to Poker Flat, launch, then get a tour of the facilities. I stopped by to watch and take a few pictures.
Weighing the PVC mount (balloons have strict weight limits!) The balled up orange sack you see is the parachute for after the balloon bursts at high altitude.
On the cross-shaped mount will be fitted a gyro (to help stabilize the cameras - they're hanging from a string) and the payload, which is a makeshift foam box containing several GoPro Hero2 cameras, some chemical hand warmers (read: HotHands) to keep things from freezing, a GPS based position transmitter to help find it once it falls to the ground, a radio transmitter as backup to the GPS, and a little plastic astronaut.
See the head-mounted GoPro camera. GoPro is sponsoring this launch, and set those little cameras everywhere to film it. I was told they brought 'a hundred' of them. I'm not sure that's an exaggeration. Anyway, this is the payload foam box, all closed up. It then gets shoved in the blue 'NASA' lunchbox/cooler thingy and zipped closed. Holes were cut in the cooler for the cameras to see out.
Just a boy and his balloon / just a girl and her balloon.
Nobody thought about how to get this balloon outside before blowing it up inside. We're scientists, not engineers. So everyone pitched in to keep it's thin skin away from the pointy edges of the construction equipment as they moved it outside.
A girl and her balloon, soon to part ways:
The balloon was released, the line was fed out, with the PVC frame and payload hanging about 50 feet down.
And there it goes:
Their projection was for it to land in the Yukon Flats, about halfway between the White Mountains and Fort Yukon. Yeah, good luck recovering it. They'll need to rent a helicopter.