Well, we took a risk and launched today even though the weather pattern was pushing us further south and east than we wanted. The risk was that it would end up in a forested area in a tree . . . . and it did. But somehow we found it, without cell signal to power our GPS even. What an AMAZING journey and thank you all for helping make this dream come true - words can't express how we all feel right now. The curvature is exaggerated somewhat due to the wide angle of the lens. We will try and fix that (but not all of it) after we research how to correct lens distortion in Photoshop.
Below is the predicted flight path. We got started 2 hours late due to the lengthy fill time of the balloon and the winds were much stronger because of the delay pushing us off the original prediction. You should plan 2 hours to fill it if you ever try and do this yourself. We used http://habhub.org/predict/ for the model. Right click on the image below and "View Image" to see it full size.
Here is a shot of us filling the balloon. It reached 118,000 feet before bursting and falling back to earth. Had a lot of help from the parents of Anna's friends. Mini's dad help me a bunch with the balloon and spent the day with us on the chase. Lexi's grand father helped us get the remaining helium we needed without which we could not have launched.
We launched at 11:45 Central time. The balloon was moving too fast for the SPOT meter to get a lock to send a GPS location the entire flight. I hadn't counted on that. It was a very helpless feeling but we remained confident and were rewarded with a location at 2:02 P.M. within 13 minutes of our total flight time of 2:30. The bad news was, as we learned it was farther away and in the woods. We headed out and got to the location at about 2:50 P.M.
The bad news was that from about 30 minutes from the landing site, we had no cell coverage. So all we had was a rough area to work from behind a church in the woods. We went about 100 yards into the woods and started searching and Mini spotted the parachute about 100 yards from that location. What luck (for the location) and keen eyesight.
It appeared to be about 20-30 feet in the air from where we stood. But after three of us hacked our way further though the woods, it turned out to be on a ridge opposite our ridge and within hand reach. We were able to simply grab it and pull it down enough to cut it loose from the parachute making lots of young ladies and their families very happy. We had some amazing luck help us along today.
The team was holding the payload by 3:50 this afternoon. Upon inspecting the payload everything appeared to be just fine and we headed home.
Everything went perfect with this flight except one thing, the high res digital camera didn't take pictures. It sounded like it was taking pictures and you can even hear it in the video every 5.5 seconds. But, it had no SD card in it. So the pictures we have are still shots pulled from the HD footage. These are fine for 8x10 photos and even up to 16x20 but might not reproduce well above that. I take full credit for the mistake, in my prep I cleaned the SD cards of all the cameras and forgot to put the last one back in. I check the camera and it fired just fine when the shutter was pressed . . . . no indication of the lack of SD card.
Here are a couple more shots from about 118,000 feet. I've pulled almost 100 shots tonight but have only had time to color correct a few. You can right click on the images and go to "View Image" to see a larger version.
We will be sending you a survey in the next few days to get physical addresses and email addresses so we can send/email pictures to you. I'll be producing a video of the entire project. I'll email everybody as well once it is complete.