DARPA's giant red balloons officially at large

On the first day 10 weather balloons are sent skyward at fixed locations across the continental U.S. as part of DARPA's Network Challenge, a team from MIT wins the competition--and the $40,000 prize.

DARPA red balloon
DARPA says the balloons will be in readily accessible locations and visible from nearby roads. DARPA

Update at 10:56 p.m. PST: The MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team (PDF) has won the competition.

You may have heard about that DARPA balloon challenge , where the first team to identify the latitudes and longitudes of 10 moored weather balloons across the continental U.S. wins $40,000? Well, as of Saturday, the balloons are up in the air. If you don't have a team yet, here are some places to report a sighting.

What's cool is how most of the balloon-hunting communities I've found are working toward selfless goals. Both DARPABalloon.com and this MIT group are proposing to gather a huge number of participants, and rather than give each contributor a measly cut, the 40 grand will be donated to charity.

DARPA is holding its Network Challenge to mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet. The competition is meant to explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.

So, good luck to everyone involved. If you happen to stumble across one this weekend, consider reporting it to a group that's playing for charity. Just make sure it's not a red balloon some kid let go of first.

This story originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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