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Thursday, 30th of August:
Meteorology versus Intuition
What is going on when the person responsible for external communication within the Austrian Space Forum is standing on the roof of an observatory, waving some metal poles and a Japanese instruction manual while temperature feels like -40 degrees Cersius? She builds a 2m tall YAGI antenna enabling radio contact to our aerial vehicles – which is also some kind of communication.
A small team of the Polares project has already taken over the observatory on the “Lustbuehel” in Graz and has filled the loft with cables, laptops, poles, boxes, radios, tools, and even more boxes and cables.
The preparations for two planned balloon launches are done with much experience, since the first launch in 2007 to commemorate 50 years of Sputnik eight balloons have taken to the skies from here. Balloon number nine is bound to take off on the morrow.
The payload of Passepartout „Sherpa III Airsampler 2“ is going to weigh about 2kg and contains various technology: sensors to measure hight, pressure, humidity and temperature, an onboard computer named STACIE (Stratosphere Telemetry And Control Interface Equipment), several special batteries and a specifically developed device to filter air samples at high altitude. This is the so called Airsampler. It’s goal is to find microbial life in the stratosphere.
Whether or not our balloons – the launch of number ten is planned for Saturday to honour Victor Hess – can actually start this weekend, will depend on a low pressure area over the Atlantic. Fascinating…
Friday, 31st of August:
Nose Dive into the unknown
Dense, grey rain clouds hide the sunrise. Thankfully the rain itself is only drizzle – we are optimistic. „Sherpa III Airsampler 2“ should be able to deal with this condition. Due to recent events it has also gotten the byname „Neil Armstrong“. Only shortly after 9 AM, the rain starts to pour – with consequences for our balloon.
At a maximal hight of 1.353 m over sealevel, the balloon suddenly drops to 600-700m, followed by another 200m rise – but then a slow, but final dive towards the ground. Passepartout Sherpa has drifted directly into the weatherfront. Water collects on the balloon and pushes it down to earth.
Our balloon therefore does not pay a visit to the stratosphere but enjoys a flight over Graz. Apparently it grazes a streetlamp before gaining some hight again, and finally getting caught by a balcony of a tower block: at 9:45 its journey is over. A team goes to fetch the balloon and its payload.
Shortly after the team has sighted the balloon, something unexpected happens: one of the lessons we have learned from the past is that balloons “prefer” to land in trees. We have therefore installed a remotely controlled separation mechanism. But without even activating it, the payload suddenly drops and crashes from the seventh floor, with all its sensitive equipment. The balloon takes to the sky again and disappears into the thunderstorm.
Thankfully no one gets hurt, only the Styrodur capsule takes some damage. After the payload has been inspected, it is clear that it won’t be able to fly anymore this weekend. The worsening weather prohibits another take off anyway. The airsampler experiment with its goal to filter air at a hight of 20 – 30 km to find traces of life will have to wait for another day.
This article is available in: German
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