News: Local space camp kids launch mission Aurora

Published in the July 16th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News

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Edmonton Sun

It may not have been as astronomical a mission as NASA’s Discovery or Atlantis, but it was an out-of-this-world experience for space camp kids who launched mission Aurora into the uppermost limit of Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday.

“That was awesome,” Danny Krol, 13, said with a grin after a giant weather balloon armed with cameras was released into the sky at the U of A’s Lister Field.

“I thought it would start going whatever direction the wind was going, but it went straight up instead.”

About 30 University of Alberta Space Academy camp students aged nine to 14 watched as their weather balloon – carrying two payload boxes with cameras and little stuffed animal beavers dressed in spacesuits – shot into the sky.

The mission: to take pictures of the planet with a view from space at an altitude of about 30 km off the ground.

“It’s such an exciting thing to see it go up and how fast it goes up and how big it is,” said 12-year-old space camper Jeremy Midwinter, one of the many campers in awe as they watched the balloon soar higher and higher and then out of sight in a matter of minutes. “It’s probably a once-in-a lifetime thing.”

The balloon rose at an estimated 274 to 305 metres per minute, and expanded to about nine metres wide and high before it burst when it reached the ionosphere – the highest part of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The ascent and descent took about two hours and the boxes carrying the cameras and beavers landed just west of Mundare.

Tracking and flight prediction members of a balloon experiments team drove out to recover the cameras and brought back more than 400 photos showing aerial shots of the planet.

“The idea is to teach the participants what a space mission is, designing a payload, launching it into space and recovering the data,” said Laura Mazzino, camp leader.

The balloon launch was the final project for space camp kids – who have been building telescopes and rockets and learning about space, science and teamwork all week.

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