Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Launch Day

The weather looked suitable for launch on Sunday, October 6. To avoid the strongest part of the jet stream and to have a projected landing in a zone of strong cell reception, we drove south to Saratoga Springs. We assembled the time sensitive contents of the capsule in Saratoga Springs, but the launch was delayed due to a rain shower. To avoid tall cloud decks and light rain, we made a last minute decision to drive west and to launch from Amsterdam, NY. The contents of the finalized capsule were as follows: iPhone for tracking and photography, altitude sensor, temperature sensor, microcontroller, chemical hand warmers, tracking device, altoids mints, a simple geiger counter and external iPhone batteries. Exposed and unexposed polaroid film was attached to the capsule to analyze relative radiation in the upper stratosphere. The contents were sealed in the styrofoam capsule with hot glue and duct tape. A note was affixed to the exterior of the capsule with our contact information in case someone else located the capsule. 

We inflated the balloon in a park in Amsterdam and connected the parachute and capsule. Nervously, we released the balloon and watched our beloved sensors soar into a cloud deck. 

After the launch, we drove east to Saratoga Springs and waited out the flight time in a coffee shop. After 3 hours 22 minutes, a signal appeared on our portable tracking equipment. The iPhone had been located by cell towers just southeast of Stoddard, NH. We ran to the car and began the three hour drive east. During the drive, we received updated location information and were able to call the iPhone, confirming that it was still functional, despite its plunge from 90,000 feet and the frigid temperatures of the upper atmosphere. The software pinned the coordinates of the iPhone at 43.042184, -72.041516, about 1 1/2 miles east of the northern tip of the Robb Reservoir. Unfortunately, these coordinates are only expected to be accurate to about 1 1/2 miles due to the poor cellular reception in the area. We arrived in Stoddard at 5:30 P.M and hiked into the woods. The Robb Reservoir is surrounded by beautiful hiking trails, which made the search much more convenient. We reached the designated coordinates as the sun was setting but we were unable to locate the device in an hour of searching. Disappointed, we hiked out to the main road and returned to New York. 

Now, we want your help to find the balloon! The balloon is white and is affixed to a Styrofoam capsule with dimensions approximately 12in x 4in x 5 in. Between the balloon skin and research capsule, there is a bright red parachute with a 36 in diameter that should be easily visible. We would be thrilled to reward $100 for the safe return of this capsule if anyone is able to locate it in the woods. The Robb Reservoir is surrounded by beautiful hiking trails, which pass through the area the balloon may be located within. A map of the landing area is shown below:

If anyone is able to locate the balloon or would like more information, they should call Javier's phone at (310)795-0813. We would be extremely appreciative of any help from the people of New Hampshire!

Jake Messner

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