A few days ago I had a brief post on a team of Spanish kids who used a latex balloon and a $60 camera to take photographs of the earth from near the edge of space. My info was sketchy at the time, but an alert reader found and sent me a link to the group's website, which has a nice account, with many photos, of the operation. The page is in Catalan but has a pull-down Google translation option up near the top so you can quickly have it translated. It's a great look at the intense excitement of shoestring-budget science.
Here's the crew:
the trajectory of the balloon:
And along the way, great excitement and tension: The balloon rises wonderfully, they're getting signals from the GPS and the camera indicating all is in good order ... and then, with the camera and rig well out of sight, the batteries on their laptops start to run out and they have to switch to another laptop:
...but the surprise was great: the Google Earth not working!
Which meant they couldn't know where the thing would land -- and they needed to find it to retrieve the SD card (!) that held the photos.
Because we were a border village we take a quick decision: to go to a house to ask for a power socket and connect the laptop that had the maps. Fortunately the first house we found we were welcomed without any problems (a strong appreciation from here!).
From there they track the descent until the last signal comes from a height of 679m.
Now we knew that he had fallen and who played the go-to search for. The surprise was that the area had a fairly high number of ponds and Recs because land was irrigated. We quickly go to the drop zone provided (with the stop of the Civil Guard in between the antenna maybe the thinking was that we were spies, who knows).. Once there we headed to a farm for more power and turn power back to the laptop and look exactly the area of collapse. Radius where we had to find was relatively small, so we quickly looked up it. ! For some reason I thought that perhaps were still sending data ... and the surprise was that yes! We had the exact point of landing!
With the car we quickly headed to the small path where I was supposed to and actually ... It was there!
Go to the site, it's well worth it, and there's a wonderful series of photos as the balloon rises higher and higher, till the top halves of the photos grow very dense, and then another as the rig descends and the ground races up at it..