A bit of fog on the first day of fall didn’t dim the excitement at all as students at Aspen Crossing Elementary prepared to launch two large weather balloons into near space on Sept. 22. Students and parents gathered on the playground, along with several local veterans and active duty servicemen and women, who were guests of honor at the launch event.
They watched as members of the school’s two balloon clubs – the second and third grade “Colorado’s Flying Marmots” and the fourth and fifth grade “Aspen Crossing Aliens” – did final checks of the equipment each balloon would carry.
“We’re setting up all the experiments,” said fourth-grader Bryn Gallivan, as she pointed out a plastic bottle that contained a live cricket and another filled with red liquid. “That’s the barometer. It’s going to tell us how low the air pressure gets. The black thing is a GPS, that’s the regular camera and that’s the 360-degree camera.”
Aspen Crossing technology teacher and club sponsor Carrie Larimer hoped the balloons would reach 120,000 feet. Principal Scott Schleich was hoping for 140,000 feet, but Ms. Larimer laughingly told the crowd that was “unreasonable.”
To avoid a mid-air collision, the Aliens’ balloon was released first. You can watch video of the launch and the balloon's ascent through low stratus clouds here.
The Aliens' balloon eventually reached an altitude of 117,721 feet before it burst and fell back to earth. You can watch the balloon burst and start to descend here.
The Marmots’ balloon was released second and hit 116,394 feet. The barometer showed that the air pressure was about 11.8 psi at launch and reached a low of .017 psi. The balloons traveled about 72 miles and were retrieved near Hoyt, Colorado.
Regardless of how high or how far the balloons traveled, Larimer considered their journey a success.
“We’re learning about air pressure, how to set up experiments in near space and that elementary kids can send something to space,” Larimer said. “The kids learn that they are scientists and it’s possible for them to do anything.”
|Colorado's Flying Marmots||Aspen Crossing Aliens|