On May 20, 2012 we attempted to launch two crafts, the Space Panther One and the Space Panther Two. Panther One was equipped with a 3D camera and a device to measure internal and external temperatures, ultraviolet light exposure and wind speed. Panther Two was equipped with one video camera, one camera to take still photos, several student experiments to measure the affects of high altitude on seeds, algae and blood, as well as devices measuring cosmic radiation, temperature, wind speed, humidity and acceleration on three axes. The crafts were the result of months of hard work and determination by students in grades 6-9.
May 20th turned out to be a very windy day in Northern California. We were well prepared for the launch, but the wind turned out to be our worst enemy in trying to launch the balloons. After the original balloon for Panther One popped for unknown reasons during the launch prep, we quickly grabbed a back-up balloon, tapped into our reserve helium and we were back in business.
At 5:00 pm the balloons were brought out onto the “tarmac” for launch. We often hear about NASA aborting missions only seconds before lift-off, and what we quickly realized was that our projects were also subject to the same kind of unforeseen variables and setbacks. Just as we were about to give the countdown for launch, the balloon attached to Panther Two burst as a result of the difference in air pressure caused by the high winds.
This was a big disappointment for the team, but immediately we scrambled to get Panther One off the ground. Repositioning the balloon to a safer location and with a quick countdown from the crowd, the Space Panther One was released. The winds were keeping the balloon from a strictly vertical ascent and it moved horizontally across the campus towards trees and power lines. The crowd audibly held its breath as the craft appeared to be headed for certain catastrophe. At the last moment the wind let up and the craft lifted itself above the obstructions, within inches of the trees, and was off. With a cheer from the crowd, it was clear that the mission would still be a success.
Panther One traveled southeast across the Anderson Valley and rose slowly up into the cloudless sky. Because of the slow ascent and excellent visibility, the crowd was able to spot the balloon for at least half an hour after launch. The balloon caught the upper-altitude wind currents and began heading northeast. Original projections put the balloon landing somewhere in the northern Mendocino National Forest, but because of the slow ascent, the winds had time to push the balloon a whopping 87.2 miles! It burst at an estimated altitude of 35 km above the surface of the earth. The parachute successfully deployed and it made a gentle landing in an almond orchard just west of Chico, California, having traveled over twice as far as any of our previous balloons!
Panther Two unfortunately never made it off the ground. This is only a minor setback, as all it will take is a new balloon and helium to get it ready for a new mission. Panther Two also had contained the camera that would snap photos of the eclipse from high-altitudes, so we unfortunately missed that opportunity.
Panther One was recovered the next day and it brought back a wealth of valuable data for study. The video camera brought back stunning 3D video of the first hour of flight. We unfortunately again encountered a problem with humidity inside the craft so the upper altitudes of the flight are obscured by camera fogging. While the video shows the darkening of the earth during the eclipse, the video unfortunately lacks the clarity we desired.
The Eclipse 2012 Mission was a valuable learning experience for teachers and students alike. The students demonstrated remarkable dedication and teamwork, even in the face of major problems and setbacks. While we did not get the all of the imagery and data that we had originally intended, what we did get is excellent data for planning the next mission. The most valuable thing that was gained from the project was the experience and knowledge that only comes with trying something new. These experiences will lead us to create better projects in the future and raise new scientific questions for future study.
Video is currently being processed and rendered, but here's a preview of the first several minutes of the flight of the Space Panther One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMhE3Xo-Wm8&list=HL1337793704&feature=mh_lolz
Because of the generous support we received for this project, we have all of the equipment necessary for many more balloon launches. We will keep you posted on our future missions. Check for updates at our website: www.BoonvilleSpaceProgram.org.
Donors will be receiving thank-you letters and stickers in the mail soon. We will be sending out the rest of the rewards for our donors this summer. The t-shirt, DVD and photos should be sent out in late July or early August. If your mailing address changes before that time, please let us know.
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Pledge $5 or moreYou selected
You will receive a personalized thank-you letter from our student team and your name will appear as a Supporter in the credits of the DVD that will chronicle the project.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $20 or moreYou selected
The previous reward plus you will receive a Boonville Space Program souvenir sticker that has traveled up to the border of space and back. Your name will appear in the credits of the DVD as a Contributor.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $40 or moreYou selected
All of the above rewards plus a copy of the DVD of the event. The DVD will show the development of the project, the launch and flights of the spacecraft in standard or 3D video. Your name will appear in the credits as a Sponsor.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $75 or moreYou selected
All of the above rewards plus you will receive a stylish Boonville Space Program t-shirt. A sure way to impress your friends when you wear the shirt and explain to people that you funded a spacecraft. Your name appears on the credits of the DVD as a Donor.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $125 or moreYou selected
The sticker, the DVD, the t-shirt, plus a special one-of-a-kind limited 20x30 print of our best high-definition image of the eclipse. It will look great on your wall and make a great conversation piece as you explain to your guests that you funded a very unique, one-of-a-kind spaceflight. Your name will appear on the DVD as a Major Sponsor.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
Wow! You are so awesome that we are going to give you everything above and invite you to help us track the event in real-time from anywhere in the world. You will receive the link to our (top-secret) tracking website and can watch the crafts traveling across the map in real-time. Get a bunch of people from the office to chip in on this one, throw an Eclipse party and invite everyone to come and track the event that you helped to support. Oh, and we'll put your name in big letters on the DVD as a Benefactor.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
This is the corporate sponsorship level. We will place a big sticker on the side of one of the spacecraft with your company name or logo. It's like a race car, but way cooler. Imagine the publicity for your business as we send your name up into the stratosphere. We will give you plenty of visual coverage on the DVD and we're listing you in the credits as a Major Benefactor.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
We're speechless!!! At this level, you're inspiring a next generation of scientists and space explorers, so we are going to dedicate one entire spacecraft to you or your company. You will get to name the spacecraft and we will decorate all sides of it with your company logo or personal message. We will also invite you to come to California and participate in the launch of your spacecraft. You will be listed as Patron of the Scientific Arts in the credits of the DVD. Note: If we get more than three donors at this level, we'll just keep building more spacecraft!Estimated delivery:
- (38 days)