Flight #92: A Mission Near Space Adventure

IMG_3608 (1)On June 30th 2016, we had another MSN (Mission Near Space) flight launch with our MSN camp. I was one of two summer high school interns participating in the launch. As we left from the Planetarium we traveled an hour and a half to Koerner Aviation airport in Kankakee, IL. The moment we arrived around 10:02am we started to set up to get ready for our launch. Around noon the balloon was launched! Immediately we started tracking the balloon for about two hours through Kankakee,IL, Morocco, IN, and Monon, IN. We stopped at a local gas station in Indiana to wait. While we were at the gas station we noticed the balloon had burst. The team predicted that the balloon would start to descend for at least 40 minutes or more, but in fact the balloon had landed 18 minutes after it burst, much faster than what was predicted.


After the balloon had burst we started tracking it immediately to see where it landed. 30 minutes of looking for the location of where the balloon landed we found the area were it was near Monon, IN (Monon is a Township, White County, Indiana, United States with a population of 1,777). Question is, where exactly did it land? Well it landed in the woods across from a cornfield but, we had no idea where the SPECIFIC spot the balloon landed. So we got everybody together grabbed our cameras, a 30ft pole, and our radio to track it and to see exactly where it landed. As we’re walking through the woods trying to find it the radio starts beeping but we still had no idea where it was until we all looked up and saw the payload stuck in a tree,

IMG_3619We grabbed the 30ft pole hoping it would long enough to reach the balloon, but it wasn’t. Then we tried to see if Ken could climb the tree and grab the balloon, well that didn’t work either. At this time it was 4:30pm and we still had the campers and everyone else just staring at the balloon trying to figure out a way to get it down. We couldn’t keep the campers out in the woods with us to retrieve any longer so Chris gathered all the kids and drove them back to the Planetarium, and the other 9 adults were left back to figure out how to get experiments back. We realized we had to get professional tree climbers. We drove to a local gas station in hopes that we would find some tree climbers, well we did.

We met a woman named Hannah who could help us retrieve the balloon. We showed her where the balloon was and she wasn’t comfortable climbing the tree because of how big it was, so she called her dad to help. Hannah’s dad, Red, came within 15 minutes to help retrieve the balloon. Her dad grabbed his chainsaw, ladder, and some rope and we just watched him climb the tree effortlessly. Finally after about 15-20 minutes of cutting the huge tree branches down we retrieved the balloon. We gathered all of the things we sent up with the balloon only to find out one small green payload was missing, we searched the area for it but it was nowhere to be found. We chalked that bag up as lost. By the time we retrieved the payload it was around 6:30-6:45pm. We were so excited that we had the experiments and even more relieved to head back to the Planetarium, we didn’t get back until 8:30pm. To sum up the entire day, it was exciting and an amazing learning experience.



The hard way to retrieve a payload..


Thank you video to Hannah and Red (her dad) from the campers.





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