Taking on the sky with high-altitude balloons (pictures)
A group of high-altitude balloon enthusiasts from Stanford successfully captured what they think is the first-ever photo of a balloon, the horizon, and space -- from above. And they were under budget. CNET was on hand to see how it worked.
Balloon space and Earth
PATTERSON, Calif.--The goal was simple: Take a photograph of a high-altitude balloon, the Earth, and space from a second balloon directly above.
It may sound simple, but a group of Stanford students participating in the first-ever Global Space Balloon Challenge last weekend thinks it had never been done before.
Until now. The team of 10 students successfully launched their design, capturing the image they wanted, and now they hope to win the Best Photograph category of the global challenge.
Photo by: Stanford Student Space Initiative High Altitude Balloon Team / Caption by:
The Stanford team's design was based on the idea that a long rod would keep two balloons separate, with one floating higher than the other. A camera suspended in a payload box underneath the higher balloon would take the picture. But in order to work, it would have to stay stable, something the team wasn't sure would work until it launched. As seen here, it worked precisely as designed.
The Stanford team launched two separate designs: One that would compete to reach the highest altitude, and the other which would compete for best photograph. Both utilized two balloons. Here, they inflate the first balloon of the first design.
After the team inflated the first balloon, they had to set it aside to inflate the next one. Here, team member Fiona Meyer-Teruel sits on a chair that the balloon is tied to, to keep it from flying away.
The first launch is up in the air -- heading for what the team hoped would be an altitude of 140,000 feet. Ultimately, though, it reached about 110,000 feet, not as high as hoped, but higher than the team had previously achieved with any of its launches.
The initial launch had problems immediately that may have affected the balloons' flight. Among them was that one of the balloons -- not fully inflated in order to allow it to expand as it ascended, inverted like a cup, slowing down the ascent.