The fourth flight by the Annapolis Royal Space Agency floated off without a hitch Saturday.
The group, made up of students and staff from Annapolis West Education Centre and members of the community, launched a high-altitude balloon with a payload of sensors, cameras and a 3D replica of town crier Peter Crofton Davies shortly before 9 a.m.
The balloon was designed to burst once it climbed to 30 kilometres in the upper atmosphere, and fall back to earth.
The group this year decided to incorporate an art project as well, sealing a balloon of paint in the capsule above a canvas. The tube containing the balloon was lined with several razor blades, so that when the paint balloon expanded at higher altitudes it would be cut open and flow to the canvas. The result will be displayed at ARTsPlace gallery as part of the opening of an exhibit called To the Moon and Back
Final preparations Saturday morning included making sure the two cameras and batteries were working, and that the batteries used to power everything were sealed tightly inside the styrofoam capsule, which also held hand warmers as heaters.
The helium-filled balloon was moved to the school’s soccer field, where it was released on what was planned to be a three-hour flight that would end somewhere off Highway 8 in West Dalhousie.
Grade 11 student Elsa Hafting has worked on the project in three of its four years. She said she always looks forward to seeing the footage.
She said the projects have given her an interest in science and that is what she plans to study after high school, but isn’t sure yet what field she will choose.
Her brother, Finn, is a Grade 12 student who has spent all four years on the project.
“It teaches a lot of teamwork skills and creates interest in computer programming,” he said. “In Grade 9, I didn’t know that you could program small chips to track packages like this, and now I’m making GPS trackers in my computer programming class at school.”
The Annapolis Royal Space Agency, made up of Annapolis West Education Centre students & staff and community members,launched their 4th space balloon this morning. It will take photos and measurements from up to 30,000 meters. pic.twitter.com/gWIEnBxqiL— Ian Fairclough (@iancfairclough) June 22, 2019
He plans to move on to engineering and robotic systems after he graduates.
Last year was the first time the agency was able to launch and retrieve the capsule in the same day. One year it dropped in the ocean after a flight issue, and another time it sat in a field until the location transmitter started working again.
The flight plan this year, based on the jet stream and the trade winds, had it landing tens of kilometres away instead of hundreds.
“There’s a weird storm that’s almost created a vortex around here,” Smith said after the launch. “It’s going up and it just spirals and never really gets pulled in any direction. It sits right here and then corkscrews up and comes down that way.”
As a teacher, he said, it’s exciting to see the excitement in students taking part.
“There’s so much work putting everything together, but when you get the footage back, it’s the footage that will shock you, to see that you sent something up and have that view is very, very, very cool.”
The capsule will record wind, temperature and pressure inside and outside.
Despite an unexpected foray over the Bay of Fundy that caused some anxious moments, Elsa Hafting said Saturday afternoon that the capsule landed safely in the woods in the Mickey Hill area of Annapolis County.
“It was at the top of a tree,” she said. “It wasn’t too bad, but we had to cut the tree down to get it.”
As an added bonus, the team was able to see the capsule and parachute coming down.
“We were in the perfect spot where we could see it go past us as it came down,” she said. “We’ve never seen that before, so it was really cool.”
She said the painting “looks amazing,” as does the footage from the cameras, which has been downloaded.
More information from the project and the results will be available on the group’s Facebook page.