Multiverse Blog

Karin Hauck
/ Categories: In-Focus

My Balloon Launch Experience

[Today's Multiverse Guest Blogger is Tanesha, one of the teen interns in our NASA NOVAS program. The interns created and sent an experimental balloon to the edge of space! ]

The balloon launch was held on Sunday, October 26, 2014. It was a fun, exciting, and adventurous experience—although we did go through some struggles along the process. We weren’t sure about the exact location of launch because we knew it was somewhere around the Chevron Refinery in Richmond. We kept driving until we reached the end to a private marina called Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor. First, we had to ask permission from the owner, Eric, to launch the balloon at his property. He called the Chevron Refinery and they told him if anything falls into their facility, we could get arrested. There recently was a drone that fell into the Chevron Refinery and everyone who was part of it got arrested. The homeland security were extremely upset. Our entire group got scared but we were keeping our fingers crossed so that everything goes well. Ultimately, Eric had to decide if we could conduct our experiment. Everyone thought he would say no, but he finally agreed and allowed us.

We went to the end of the harbor at the west jetty to set up and unload. The winds were pretty high so we blew up the balloon by using the truck as a wind breaker. The payload group made sure all cameras were turned on, GPS trackers were giving signals, and all components in the package were fully functioning. For a fun experiment, we also attached Starburst candy onto the payload to see if it would taste the same when it comes down from space. Eric, the owner of the property, was quite cooperative by helping us with the project. Soon all his neighbors started to come out and watch the launch. Once we were done attaching the parachute to the balloon and the payload to the parachute, it was time to launch. We slowly let the balloon up and it went up really fast. It was exactly 12:53 according to Steve from a photo of the launch from his phone. We spent about an hour packing up and watching the balloon go higher and higher. The sky was very clear so we could see the balloon for a while. Everyone was happy that it successfully went up without any trouble.

As we waited for the balloon’s descending, we had lunch at Extreme Pizza. We got our first signal at about 2:10 p.m on Steve’s phone which meant the balloon was descending. We started driving to Tassajara near Livermore. About every 5 minutes, we would get a signal closer and closer to its exact location.

aerial view of fields and trees

An aerial view taken by a camera aboard the balloon, colored dots show the flight path.

Finally, at 3:48, we received our last signal stating that the balloon has landed. We headed out to its final destination which was at a dirt bike range at Carnegie SVRA. We talked to the park’s rangers and showed the exact spot of location which was somewhere on a trail in the mountains.

aerial view of fields and trees

Location pinpointed.

They explained to us that we could not take our car up there because the car will be wrecked and we could get hurt.The park ranger said that he would be able to take two people up there on his six wheeler to search for the payload. Everyone in the group wanted to go but only one intern plus Steve could go up. Brandon was randomly picked by a fair game. The rest of us waited for about an hour and a half and we hung out in the area and had ice cream while we waited for them to return. We thought it was getting too late so we were going to leave. Immediately, Steve, Brandon, and the ranger came down the hill with the package while we all congratulated them. Our group became excited and started eating the space candy which ended up tasting the same but hard and cold. We thanked the ranger and took pictures with him along with the payload. We packed our items and headed back on the road back to Berkeley.

Stay tuned for Part 2 -- Retrieval Recollection by Brandon -- about getting the balloon and payload back!

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