Mantorville, MN – 9/10 – Harvest Moon

The BESPIN-III had its inaugural launch last night down in Mantorville, MN in an effort to capture some great sunset shots as well as some shots of the Harvest Moon. We had an absolutely perfect day for it, no wind, no clouds, 75° or so. Couldn’t have been better.

We launched a few minutes early, around 6:20pm CST and were amazed how perfectly straight up it went for a good part of the launch. We sat and watched it from the launch location well over 75,000ft up, which was astonishing. At that point we decided to head out an begin chase since it was getting high enough to where it could potentially break soon, or at least within the next hour. We headed over to the house to drop off some supplies, condense to one car and begin the chase. We could STILL see it up over the house!

As we headed out down the road, we were about 10 miles south of our launch location and we pulled off to grab some road supplies (snacks, etc) and we looked out, to our surprise, to STILL SEE IT up in the air. So the remainder of the drive I (jamey) sat with my head out the window watching it up in the air. As the balloon rises, it expands, and as the sun was going down, it was reflecting light off the bottom of what was ultimately a 50′ wide balloon. Our max altitude was 118,541 ft up in the air, and I watched it all the way to that height. I looked away for a sec to check altitude on the iPad, and when I looked back, it’d disappeared. So we could see it for the duration of the flight, which was quite impressive.

The descent was fairly painless. A real gradual float back down to the Earth. We had a few scares as it stopped moving any direction but downward over a giant wind farm in southern, MN, and then about 30 minutes later when we realized it was on a path to set down right in the middle of Interstate 90.

After 30 minutes of waiting for the SPOT tracker, we were relieved to see it had nestled down on the edge of an alfalfa field, about 20 years from a tree line. So a bit of a long, moist walk through the field, across a small creek and over a few barbed wire fences, we found it blinking away and happily disassembled the inertia rods and hoed back to the truck. We were a little saddened to see our Kodak camcorder had given us trouble again and somehow froze up 16 minutes after we turned it on. So we have no footage of the flight, only pictures. But the pictures are great and we’ve got them below!

First, a few pics from the chase, the APRS path and a Google Earth KML file to share.

Right off the tip of my finger, you can still see it (this photo doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea)
You can even barely see it in this photo at 98k ft - on Twitpic

Found it!
Got it! Right on the edge of the woods!  on Twitpic

And lastly, the Flickr Gallery

So that’s what we got. We’ve decided the next launch will be a morning launch and we’ll be shooting for max altitude (130,000+ ft). Stay tuned for more excitement on that front.