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Anacapa School Project Soars to Stratospheric Heights — Then Lands Safely

High-altitude balloon captures cool photos, data from Earth's upper atmosphere

Anacapa School’s Near Space Exploration Club (ANSEC) successfully recovered its high-altitude balloon after a weekend flight, which returned stunning photos and environmental data from the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

To ensure their high-altitude balloon would climb quickly enough, ANSEC team members Julio Bernal, Aubrey Cazabat, Christian Eckert and Connor Proctor first calculated the balloon's lift.
To ensure their high-altitude balloon would climb quickly enough, ANSEC team members Julio Bernal, Aubrey Cazabat, Christian Eckert and Connor Proctor first calculated the balloon’s lift. (Anacapa School photo)

At 9:43 a.m. Saturday, ANSEC members Julio Bernal, Aubrey Cazabat, Christian Eckert and Connor Proctor, along with faculty adviser Levi Maaia, launched the club’s first near-space balloon probe, AAHAB-1, from Shandon, a small town east of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County. The group’s mission was to gather photos and environmental data as the balloon passed through the stratosphere.

The ANSEC team calculated the balloon’s lift to ensure the craft would climb quickly.

After the probe’s two-hour, 10-minute flight over the Central Coast, the team recovered the payload in rural Kings County, 20 miles northeast of the launch site.

“We worked so hard on this project,” said Cazabat, a senior. “It was such an amazing feeling to see the capsule back on the ground and to know that we had done it!”

From the top of the balloon’s 91,122-foot ascent above 99 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere, the camera had a view as far as 400 miles in all directions under a black, near-space sky. The capsule’s GPS radio-tracking signal was heard by amateur radio stations as far away as Mendocino and San Diego counties.

After beginning the project in the late fall, the Anacapa students quickly discovered they had a steep learning curve ahead as they tackled challenges from wind and flight path prediction to engineering a sturdy but lightweight capsule that could survive brutally cold conditions and hurricane-force winds. Despite these hurdles, the club achieved all of its goals and retrieved extensive environmental data, including temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and radiation exposure levels, along with stunning photos of Earth’s curved surface.

“We picked up some ice on the camera window that can be seen in a few of the higher-level shots,” said Proctor, a senior. “Other than that, all of our critical systems worked flawlessly.”

Click here for more data from the flight, including photos, a map of the flight path and environmental information collected. Click here for additional Facebook photos.

Click here for more information on Anacapa School, 814 Santa Barbara St. Become a fan of Anacapa School on Facebook. Follow Anacapa School on Twitter: @anacapaschool.

Anacapa School students launched their project near Shandon and it zig-zagged to the east and north, eventually alighting near Highway 41 south of Reef Station, depicted in the dotted red line. The balloon's predicted path is the solid line.
Anacapa School students launched their project near Shandon and it zig-zagged to the east and north, eventually alighting near Highway 41 south of Reef Station, depicted in the dotted red line. The balloon’s predicted path is the solid line. (Anacapa School map)

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