Montana Space Grant Consortium launches high-altitude balloon in Big Sandy



BIG SANDY — Student ranging from middle school to college were in Big Sandy at the farm of U.S. Senator Jon Tester for some high flying fun on Friday.

The students launched a high-altitude balloon as part of a project by the Montana Space Grant Consortium.

“Today there were actually several really cool experiments,” said MSGC director Dr. Angela Des Jardins. “The main ones are video payloads sending down real-time video and camera images.”

The launch was meant to test that camera equipment in preparation for a larger NASA project to use high-altitude balloons to observe a solar eclipse in 2017, and Tester was happy to provide the base of operations for the launch.

“It’s about educating the next generation of scientists and leaders in this country and I think it’s pretty amazing work that their doing,” said Tester.

The cameras being tested will be used by 70 other balloon teams participating in the solar eclipse project.

The work provides Montana students experience with a broad spectrum of science and technology.

The cameras were not the only cargo, however.

Fairfield 8th-grader Adeline Hahn had her own project to tag along that included instruments for measuring solar radiation, barometric pressure, and the movement of the balloon during flight.

She plans to compare her findings with data of a previous balloon launch to look at changes in the earth’s atmosphere.

“Everybody’s excited, the balloon goes up and you chase it,” said Hahn. “It’s fun and you get to meet a lot of new people.”

When the balloon took about off it took about an hour and a half to reach its goal 100,000 feet above and it was quite a sight.

As soon as the balloon began transmitting video and pictures there was jubilation from the team. The balloon eventually reached an altitude of 87,618 feet.

“It was pretty amazing, “said Tester. “What was really amazing about it is the young people both from the University system and from surrounding high schools that were involved in the launch and had projects within the launch.”

For some those amazing projects may become amazing jobs.

“I’ve always thought it would be really cool to work at NASA in like mission control for either something to another planet in the solar system or even out of the solar system in general,” said Hahn.