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After a year of planning, designing, and preparation, we, the Engineering Club at Arnold High School in Panama City Beach, FL, have FINALLY released our high-altitude weather balloon! It traveled a total of 90,000ft (~28,000m) into the atmosphere, capturing stunning views of near-space with the on-board GoPro. With the help of a Spot Gen3 GPS tracker included in our payload, we found it in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County, FL--a full 100 miles (160km) from Gulf Coast State College where we launched it from!
So many people contributed their time to making this launch possible, so we want to thank all the groups and people involved below:
-The Rangers out at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (without them, we would have never gotten this footage that you're seeing now!)
-Gulf Coast State College (especially Tony, Alan, and Brandon!)
-The entire AHS Engineering Club
-Joseph Bell (Engineering and Math teacher as well as head of the Engineering Club!)
Below are notable times throughout the video:
- 0:00:00 (Launch, obviously :D)
- 1:50:00 (Panama City Beach, FL)
- 1:50:34 (St. Marks Wildlife Refuge + more)
- 1:50:58 (Landmarks in GA, AL, and FL)
- 1:55:45 (Balloon bursting point)
- 2:34:00 (Landing)
We are planning on creating a full video outlining the design process, set up, launch, and retrieval of the balloon as well (that isn't 2 1/2 hours long), so stay tuned for that! If you liked this video, make sure you hit that "like" button and subscribe for more!
1) Due to the influx of comments asking about the fisheye lens or flat Earth, I will address that here. Yes, we know we used a fisheye lens instead of a regular one, but we were not concerned with proving that the Earth isn't flat. We just wanted a very wide view from 90,000ft, and figured fisheye was the best lens to go with considering we had never done anything like this before and already know that the Earth obviously isn't flat (but we'll leave that debate in the comments). Side note: we actually planned on having two GoPros capture footage, one with a standard lens on one side and another with wide angle turned on on the other side. Because we had never done this before we accidentally let some of our helium leak out of the canister while inflating, so we prematurely ran out of helium before hitting our target lift. In order to compensate, we had to reduce the weight, removing one GoPro (the regular lens bc that GoPro was heavier), and the 3D printed Tesla Roadster that we were going to send up as well. Even with these setbacks and kinks we still considered this launch very successful since we were able to accurately predict where it would land, got good footage back, hit our target altitude, and had a lot of fun in the process!
2) I will also address the "smudge" on the camera lens. Although it appears as though someone got fingerprints on the camera lens and we just let that slide after a year of planning, that's completely incorrect. After getting everything set up and ready for launch, the box tipped over due to heavy wind and the camera lens hit the concrete, permanently scratching it. We knew the lens was scratched before launch but we didn't have time to find a new camera and replace it, due to custom 3D printed mounts that we had designed and printed specifically to the dimensions of each camera. However, the smudge really isn't that bad and we are still extraordinarily happy with the footage!
3) Yes, we know that 90,000ft (about 28km) technically isn't space. The Karman line (most agreed upon line for space) technically starts at 100km up, but the line where space starts doesn't have an official recognized starting point anyway, since technically Earth's atmosphere extends for thousands of miles into space. Disregarding the Karman line, our balloon still reached an altitude that was above 99 percent of Earth's atmosphere, at a temperature of -77°F and a pressure so low your blood would begin to boil at body temperature, so we consider it close enough to space for our concerns 😉.