First views from near-space balloon launch video UPDATED with video

On Saturday Oct. 27 a group of middle school students from Francine Delany New School launched a weather balloon with a camera into near-space. The payload was a styrofoam cooler with a camera, some seeds (to see if radiation affects them) a few personal items, a GPS unit and some insulation and padding.

Asheville, NC Tedx Near Space Project from Peter Lutz on Vimeo.

Video courtesy of Golden Manatee Productions of Asheville.

The flight lasted around 90 minutes before the balloon expanded to bursting and the payload came to earth. The computer models predicted the landfall north of Winston-Salem, near Mt. Airy, N.C.

Search teams from the school fanned out tracking the GPS signal within an hour of launch. Saturday it was feared the cargo was lost. Teams got conflicting information from GPS which led them on a fruitless search of the Wilson Creek area of the Linville Gorge wilderness area.

Sunday morning was different, the GPS trackers all agreed on a fix north of Boone, near the NC/TN line. After a few minutes of walking off-trail, student Caleb Barber and teacher Tom Robertson found the cooler sitting on the ground. “Like someone had just set it there,” said Robertson. “It was behind some heavy (laurel) bushes,” said Barber, ” but it was right off the trail.”

Monday night Oct. 29 was the first viewing of the video at Asheville Pizza and Brewing on Merrimon Avenue. Students, parents, teachers and supporters cheered the balloons progress as it showed fantastic views of Asheville before hitting the clouds. Above the clouds, there was a great view of the expanse of Hurricane Sandy’s outer bands. The sky turned to space color, with the curve of the Earth clearly visible.

The most dramatic part was the last few moments. The balloon burst (as they must due to pressure) and the camera caught a fantastic spiral down to landing. It appears the shredded balloon got tangled in the parachute shrouds which prevented it’s deployment.

How high did it get? “We don’t really know yet. GPS stops recording altitude at 30,000 feet, but we are sending the images to NASA, they should be able to figure that for us,” said Tom Heck, lead volunteer in the project. “The video is fantastic, everyone should see this.”

The video will be shared, in an edited form, at the morning session of TEDx Asheville on Sun. Nov. 4

More stills from the video:
From the parking lot, the launch crew waves farewell.

Drifting slowly south at first, great views of Asheville.

Breaking through the top cloud layer, headed for near-space.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.