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Exactly half a century after Sputnik there is a completely different situation in space travel. The UdSSR does not exist any more, rockets have become something common, the ISS was just being built and plans were made to send more humans to the moon. We now know that these plans have been abolished already…
To honour the achievements of the UdSSR and Sputnik, the Austrian Space Forum started a small project: Passepartout, a balloon to reach the stratosphere, built by the Forum.
While it started out as a very small project with the original plan of maybe one or two take offs, we soon wanted to keep this project alive. Faster, higher, further – and better, these were the thoughts of the team members who were fascinated with how much this project has in common with real space missions. Everything, from coordination during the mission, building the payload, choose a proper take off point, obtain all necessary paperwork and authorisations to the actual take off, recovery of the payload and analysis of the collected data are very much like they are with bigh space missions.
Ofcourse, Passepartout has changed with the times: For example, the payload mass could be reduced from 2.45 to 2.3kg. The steps of the mission were continually changed and brought to perfection, with new standards being introduced. One big question which everybody kept asking themselves was this: What is possible for a group of volunteers? Of main interest were radar techniques and also biological experiments, but slightly Passepartout is moving towards more serious research. This is possible thanks to the Sherpa system, which separates the TAC (telemetry and command) from the EXP (experimental) module. This will enable the person running the experiments to wholly concentrate on the science, while the rest (flight tracking etc.) is taken care of by a core team from the ÖWF. This includes the balloon handling, helium, analysis of weather data, and also the recovery of the payload. In additon, Sherpa is also reusable.So what will Passepartouts future be like?
After the test flight on the 13th of August, Passepartout will be used in the socalled Tripolar Project. This project aims to research microbiological life forms in ice and air. It is run from Innsbruck and in close collaboration with partners in the US. For example, data samples have already been collected from the North pole and a laser has been developed to avoid any contamination of this data. So what exactly is Passepartout’s part in all this? Passepartout will collect data samples from 20 to 40 km hight – so far, we only know of life up to about 15km. We are truly entering unknown territory!
Teamwork, complexity, versatility, and excitement: these are all ingredients necessary for Passepartout’s succes. This is confirmed all over the world from hundreds and hundreds of photos from space missions: To discover new things is fun, it enables us to tie contacts with scientists all over the world and helps to understand our earth, the place we all live in. Even better: The motivation which keeps a team of volunteers going is better than any force.
This is the end of our 6part article series about Passepartout – we thank you for your interest, and positive comments along the way!
This article is available in: German
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