Preparing the payload that will be attached to a weather balloon. The balloon carried a cooler containing a camera, 60,000 to 90,000 feet in the air in an attempt to capture photos of the curvature of the Earth, the thin veil of its atmosphere and the darkness of space.
Randy Edelman, a technology education teacher at the Philipsburg-Osceola area junior high school in Pennsylvania, came up with the idea after reading about students at MIT who accomplished a similar experiment. Edelman planned the project with Seth Wilberding, a doctoral student from Pennsylvania State University who volunteers at the school one day a week through a National Science Foundation partnership.
In the classroom, Edelman had his students calculate how the altitude, pressure and climate would affect the rate of ascent and descent of the balloon. Then the group placed a Canon digital camera inside a Styrofoam cooler and surrounded it with newspaper and hand warmers to keep the electronics warm at 90,000 feet, where temperatures can go below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The camera was programmed to take photos every 12 seconds. They painted the cooler bright orange so it would be easier to spot and attached a parachute to it for safe landing.
The cooler was launched on a windy day from the high-school baseball field in Philipsburg. It stayed aloft for 72 minutes, after which it landed about 90 miles away in the town of Newport, between Lewistown and Harrisburg. Edelman was able to safely retrieve the cooler from its landing spot in a tree 70 feet in the air.
The experiment was a success, yielding 388 pictures, some of which were snapped at 60,000 to 90,000 feet--two or three times as high as planes fly. Other shots included aerial views of Interstate 99, U.S. Route 322, Philipsburg, State College and other local landmarks.
Edelman funded most of the project with a $500 education grant from the McDonalds Corporation. (Date of Images: June 2011)
Credit: Philipsburg-Osceola School District.