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How did a $69 weather balloon, a $5 dollar Styrofoam cooler and a digital camera get from downtown Oakland, California, to hover 90,000 feet above the Bay Area region?
Engineering students at Youth Radio took those materials and created a weather balloon with a cooler attached with a camera inside. The camera took shots above through a hole drilled in the cooler.
The weather balloon was floated into “near space,” the region of Earth’s atmosphere that lies between 65,000 and 350,000 feet above sea level.
The students planned the launch of the balloon using Google Maps, the CUSF Landing Predictor and terminal area charts of the San Francisco Bay Area. They also programmed the camera to take pictures every couple of seconds , and installed InstaMapper software to track the balloon’s trajectory.
The balloon was launched from a small practice field at Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif. The weather was perfect for the launch, offering clear views for miles. It was retrieved two hours and 40 minutes later at an empty field behind Jeannie Womack Park in Elk Grove, Calif.
The balloon traveled a total distance of 48.8 miles from Danville to Elk Grove, Calif and reached an estimated altitude of 75,000 to 90,000 feet. During its flight, it took 835 high resolution photographs, one every ten seconds, of the earth at various altitudes.
The pictures taken offered spectacular views of the earth. At the height of its ascent, the curvature of the earth could be faintly seen.