Seattle Station Helps California High Schoolers Get Into Space, Sort of

By Kevin Eck 

When a group of high school students in Bishop, Calif., launched a weather balloon into the atmosphere they brought Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO along for the ride.

KOMO helped sponsor the two and half hour flight for the Southern California calculus club.


Here’s the entire flight unedited.

“The team then uses a GPS tracker on the balloon to find where it landed and recover the payload,” Scott Sistek wrote on the station’s website. “Our flight was lucky — it landed in a pretty flat, easily accessible spot. Other balloons have landed in rugged mountains that require quite the hike!”

The balloon experienced temperatures as cold as -60 degrees F on its way up, and while it didn’t have an anemometer on board, a weather balloon launched that morning from somewhat-nearby-Vandenberg Air Force Base showed relatively calm winds by upper atmosphere standards, with winds around 30-50 mph on the way up, reaching a peak of 93 mph around 25,000 feet. (During a Pacific Storm, that can be well over 150 mph)

When the balloon reached the peak altitude before it popped, there was just 0.3% of standard atmospheric pressure left. Put another way, if you look at your home barometer and see it says 29.92″ — a barometer on the balloon would have said 0.09″. That’s why the sky is black even though technically the balloon’s not quite in space — there’s very little of the atmosphere left to scatter the sunlight into its familiar blue hue.

WCNC in Charlotte did something similar in 2013.