Last month we helped two students from Hinckley Academy achieve their Gold Crest Science award with a commissioned flight.
Hinckley Academy and John Cleveland Sixth Form College have become the latest school to launch a high altitude balloon filled with helium to the edge of space on Wednesday 13th of April. As part of their Gold CREST science award, Sixth Form students Alex Bailey and Tim Martin-Jones organised a balloon launch with professional balloon launcher Chris Hillcox. One of the main goals of the flight was to capture pictures of the upper atmosphere. The balloon reached a height of 86,000ft, or 26km above the earth. By attaching a payload consisting of a tracking system and a camera, they were able to track the balloon across Leicester and after the balloon had burst, where it landed. The payload landed intact due to a small, pre deployed parachute underneath the balloon. The camera in the payload managed to capture some incredible pictures of the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth; a truly mesmerizing sight.
The launch has been a long time coming as well. The balloon launch was originally proposed two years ago, but had to be put on hold for several months, until the pair were in Year 12 where they could then begin their CREST award. After approval from the Civilian Aviation Authority a balloon was cleared for launch on the 12th of April. However, due to wind changes the launch had to be postponed to the next day. The balloon set off well and was tracked over Leicester. It was first thought it would be blown east, towards Oakham, but instead sat over Leicester before bursting and landing in Shady Lane Arboretum.
Now the pictures have been processed from the flight, the students are looking to test an experiment the balloon carried up with it on the payload. It was carrying plastic designed to detect cosmic rays, rays that originate outside our solar system and fly through it, going through anything they encounter. The planet is constantly bombarded by them, and by exposing these plastics at a high altitude and then reacting them with sodium hydroxide, small etchings should appear, demonstrating where rays have hit them.
For the students it was a long term dream finally fulfilled. “We initially thought of the idea early in 2014, but didn’t have the skill to do it ourselves, and the knowledge and mentoring was not yet available to us. But setting it as a CREST project allowed it to happen, which is amazing. And the pictures of the infinity of space, knowing you’ve taken them, that’s a truly unique emotion” say Tim and Alex. “We both have a keen interest in space so for this project to become a reality is really special. We just want to extend a huge thank you to those who funded us, as without them the launch could not have happened.”
More photographs available in the Sixth Form gallery http://www.hajc.leics.sch.uk/more/balloon