Flight #85: Balloon Hunting Season

Apparently this was also the first day of hunting season!


Our last flight was interesting to say the least. It was an adventure from start to finish and it began with a science fair project by students of the Far Horizons Teacher Experience at Haines Elementary School in Chinatown. The project was to analyze how exposure to higher levels of radiation would effect Wisconsin FastPlants brassica seeds (that normally germinate in 10 days).



Space Seeds

Space Seeds

The control seeds stayed on the ground, and the others flew. The “outside” seeds were attached to the outside of the payload box, and the “inside” seeds stayed in the payload box. The seeds inside the box weren’t subjected to as low of temps as the outside seeds were.


Their “Space Seeds” experiment came in second place at Haines Middle School! They will move on to the next round of the science fair in January.


HOWEVER-giving you the behind the scenes experience of the flight itself, is our guest correspondent and Volunteer Program Manager at the Adler Planetarium, Kat Lucid.


***Post by Kat Lucid

Last Saturday I got the opportunity to go on my first Far Horizons launch! At about 9:00am, Ken, Cynthia, three interns, and I were off and headed towards Kankakee. It was about an hour drive, so Ken went over what was going to happen and started distributing everyone’s roles. Upon our arrival at the airport, we went about normal prep to get the balloon ready for launch.

Edited Movie

The real adventure started after the launch, when we were on the chase for the balloon. It was a clear day, and we were amazingly lucky to have a visual on the balloon at 95,000 feet right before it popped. At this altitude, the balloon was the size of a house, or about 35 feet across. We used our GPS tracking as well as our predicted flight path to head in the direction of the equipment as it made its way back to the earth.


Our GPS led us to a field somewhere in Northwest Indiana, and Ken pulled over once we were close enough to the signal to start getting out and looking for the equipment. We needed to get permission to go out and search in the fields, and we happened upon three gentlemen who appeared to be gearing up for a hunt. It turned out that it was the first day of hunting season in Indiana (because of course it was) and we were warned that if we went out there looking for our balloon, there was a good chance we would be shot.


With the spirit of a warrior, Ken made the executive decision that we’d be absolutely fine. We drove to the opposite side of the field, away from where we met the gentlemen ready for the hunt, and saw that we were actually closer to the payload than we were before. We grabbed some orange safety vests out of our kit in the van, and were granted permission to drive out onto the farmland to retrieve the payload. In order to get this permission, Ken spoke to a woman through a door on the property. She would not open the door because there were many excited dogs on the other side. I am still very disappointed that I did not get to pet any. I’ll get over it.


We drove the van up onto the farm, past some cows who were kind enough to make a clear path for us to follow. Past the herd, we encountered a small bridge over a creek, and stopped the vehicle just in front of a barbed wire fence at the bottom of the hill. It was time to tempt fate, so we climbed out of the van in our bright orange vests and under the barbed wire one by one as Ken held it open.


Success! Our bright yellow box of science was in the distance and in plain sight. A tree or a river didn’t catch it, as we had originally feared, and all was well with the world again.

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The ride home was peppered with terrible dad jokes via Ken and the interns and I reminiscing on our wacky adventures that day.




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