2020 High Hopes Project Report

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Pyramid Lake, Nevada on the right, Lake Tahoe in upper left from about 27,000 meters (90,000 feet). Note the thin blue line of Earth’s atmosphere and the dark of space above.

Despite weather and other conditions that delayed the 2020 launch of the High Hopes Balloon for weeks we successfully launched June 16th. The flight path did not follow the predicted path but it landed in a great spot for recovery about 100 meters off the road on the shore of a dry lake bed.

Helium is very hard to get right now so we had to inflate with hydrogen. Fortunately, we have the special suits and equipment to use a flammable gas. An advantage to hydrogen is it is considerably cheaper than helium. Dr. Wang inflated on his own while we wore masks and social distanced. The launch went smoothly, I got the honor of releasing, but soon afterwards the battery pack failed on the HAM radio transmitter that allows tracking the flight in real time. We use 2 SPOT satellite Trackers as back-up to locate the payloads once they land.

2 SPOTs worked out well because one of them failed as well. The 4 GoPro cameras all worked well. The payloads hit hard on landing and all 4 cameras broke off their mounts but continued to work.

The video below shows the launch, flight, burst and landing, including some still and slow motion. You’ll see the world’s “High Hopes” printed on biodegradable paper embedded with wildflower seeds being released using a payload originally designed by local students – I followed their plan to build and included 2 used surgical masks hanging from the bottom to honor our 1st responders.

Here is a link to photos from the day and our YouTube account that includes video from this and other missions.

This was truly “messy learning” with the failure of 2/3rds of our communication payload, but was still a success!

Learning is messy!

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