Gemini 2: A High-Altitude End to Summer

After one successful HAT and one not-so-successful launch during the summer, the June Sky team craved the thrill of sending a homemade capsule to the edge of space once again. Aiming to capture stunning views of the planet and log data for further analysis, we were not disappointed. What follows is the story of our latest, and greatest weather balloon: Gemini 2

Right after liftoff, the capsule caught a photo of our group
We arrived at the same launch site we used for Gemini 1, a cornfield in Wilmington, IL, at about 10:45. As we filled the balloon with helium over the next hour  The balloon launched at about noon, quickly rising into the blue sky. On the first leg of the way up, the capsule averaged an average upwards velocity of about 10 feet per second. There was a slight wind, which slowly increased as the balloon ascended. When we launched, the balloon had a sideways velocity of about 10 miles an hour. Launching just south of Chicago, however, gave us the privilege of being exposed to the jet-stream. This is evidenced by a change in horizontal velocity 5300 seconds (about 9 minutes) into the flight.. Over the course of a few minutes, there was a velocity change from about thirty miles an hour to almost a hundred!

The ballon eventually settled back down as it rose out of the jetstream. The blue sky was now being replaced by a pitch black background as the balloon rose through the clouds. The bright sun was consistently seen floating next to the balloon.

A few minutes before pop
A few minutes after launch

  These two pictures, taken from the same camera when the balloon launched and shortly before it popped, show the sky turning from blue to black.

The balloon rose much higher than we expected, popping at about 88,168 feet above the ground. The cameras aboard captures countless pictures of our planet, showing cloud formations, Lake Michigan, and a few different states!

Little pieces of the balloon can be seen as our camera catches the burst
The curve of the earth, artificially large for the part of the planet that is actually being observed

On the way down, however, we were in for quite a surprise. About five minutes before our capsule touched down in Indiana, an airplane flew past the payload, slamming air in the capsule with the momentum of a truck. The blast rocked the tiny module, but it didn’t stop us from capturing a few pictures of the aircraft!

These two pictures show a small Airtran flight(Chicago-Fort Myers) whizzing past our capsule.
A few minutes later, our capsule finally touched down in the front yard of a house in Indiana. Unfortunately, the new parachute was not quite as effective as the previous 2, and the force of impact was greater than ideal. We discover it 2 hours later, cracked in half but with all of the electronics intact. 
Despite the damage to the module, our final HAT mission was wildly successful, a fantastic way to conclude our trio of high-flying experiments.

Cheers,

~ Rohan Daruwala and the June Sky Team
“Wake up and smell the science”