Wow, what a day! An overwhelmingly successful launch from Blue Earth, MN producing some amazing shots (and stories to tell).

We launched at precisely 10:38am from just southeast of the small town in southwestern Minnesota, with the expectation (based on Jet Stream forecasts) that it would said northeasterly and land somewhere not far from my parents’ place and we’d be close to home after the chase. Well, similary to last weekend, it did NOT do that. It went east for about 45 minutes, then turned around and headed back west, past our launch point, and then burst, descended and came back eastward, landing about 2 miles northwest of our actual launch point.

All said and done it was up in the air for just over 2 hours and hit a whopping 121,500ft up in the air! WOW! THAT’S HIGH! We even over filled the balloon a bit this time (considering last weekend’s fiasco, we wanted to make DAMNED sure we didn’t get stuck up there again). So next launch we’ll dial it back just a little bit and see if we can get ever higher!

NOW, for the good stuff… the recovery. We chased it down as it raced back down to the earth, and at one point we were actrually underneath it and had we known where exactly to look, I’m pretty sure we could’ve spotted it, had it been parachuting down. I say, “Had it been parachuting” because when we found it, the parachute, radar reflector and balloon were nowhere to be found, but the connecting string was wound so tight it clearly spun itself to a snapping point somewhere during the descent. Knowing what we know from the last few minutes we have on APRS and seeing the last minutes of video, we think it broke off somewhere during the last 2 minutes and was travelling approximately 24-28mph when it slammed down smack dab in the middle of the river. Nothing but soy bean and corn fields for miles and miles, and we land in the middle of a river, in a stretch of woods barely wider then the length of a football field. What luck!

We lost contact with the balloon on APRS at around 5,800ft, so we drove over to its anticipated landing point, and waited for the new SPOT tracker to drop us a location. After about 20-30 mins, and no location from the SPOT, we decided to head out into the fields to see what we could find. After some scouring and estimating, we realized we were going to have to brave the mosquito ridden woods and consider swimming the river. After about 45 minutes wandering through the woods, getting separated and nearly giving up on account of the massive mosquito beating we were taking, I wound up back at the cars on the phone with my two other chasers, trying to direct them back to where we were parked. Out of sheer frustration of an hour or so of trekking through the thorns and bugs and nettles and muggy forrest air, I pulled the iPad out in one last desperation “reload” of the SPOT tracking map. BAM! THERE IT WAS! 3 miunutes ago it’d checked in… but it was right on the edge of the river. I abandoned our rendevous point and headed to the river alone, quickly realizing there was no good way to get to the river, due to 30ft cliffs on the side we were on. Again, the woods were SO thick you just couldn’t even see if there was anything down there anyway. So I wandered north for a bit, found slope I could handle, got down by the river, and realized there was no avoiding going in. Dropped my shorts, took off my shirt, threw my shoes and phone on the ground and hopped in. The water was deep, the current was strong, but I had a feeling the “other side” was where I needed to be. After another 20 minutes of wandering the opposite side of the river, 3/4 naked in soaked boxers, barefoot and Indiana Jones-ing my way through knee high nettles with a giant stick, I heard a voice from across the river. My dad had come looking for me, and suddenly between our “Can you see me? No? I’m right here? No? How about now?” exchange, I heard him holler “HEY! I SEE IT!” I then lept back into the water and drifted out to the giant tree tipped into the river, that was gently cradleing the BESPIN II in one of its many arms. After dumping the water, swimming back to my shoes/shorts with one arm and trekking back up to the car, we were finally on our way.

What a day indeed! WOW!

So, without further adeiu, I present some pretty amazing photos & video from today’s successful* launch.

The launch itself.
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The last 2 minutes, from 121,550ft up!
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The final descent with epic splashdown.
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Some photos from the launch.

LASTLY, a Google Earth KMZ file of the launch plus altitude. Pretty sweet to look at!