Six 6-grader schoolgirls from Kentucky dreamed about sending a payload into near-space, taking some measurements of earth from that point of view, snapping some high-resolution pictures, making videos of the earth and finally bringing back the payload safely to the ground. The project was named Project Terra Incognita, and up for funding in Kickstarter. Thanks to the backers, the girls have successfully finished the project, and surprisingly, these schoolgirls have brought back some amazing footage from 118,000 feet above the ground using only a camera and a homemade satellite.
Six 6-garders – Hope, Emma, Mini, Lexi, Maia and Anna – from Bowling Green, Kentucky humbly submitted their project Terra Incognita in kickstarter.com, last year. The team needed roughly $3,600 to purchase the necessary equipment and supplies; like cameras, SD cards, GPS tracker, SIM card, weather balloon, parachute etc to accomplish their project. Here is the detailed list of equipment the girls decided to use for the project.
- Sony Alpha NEX-5n, 16mm Wide Angle Lens, Time-lapse Triggers
- Two GoPro Hero2 Video Cameras and Extended Battery Pack
- Three 32 Gig SD Cards
- iTrack GPS Tracker, Service and Sim Card
- Spot Satellite GPS Messenger
- Weather Balloon, Payload Package, Rader Reflector, Rope, Parachute, Beacon light, Helium and Hand Warmer
- Other miscellaneous supplies
The objective of the project was as to –
- Place an object into the stratosphere (around 20 miles above the earth’s surface) via a weather balloon and return it safely back to earth without damaging any of the equipment from the fall or extreme temperatures and wind speed.
- Take both HD video and high-resolution still photographs of the curvature of the earth and black of space from near orbit.
- Collect data measurements about the speed of ascent/descent and air temperature of near orbit.
- Exhibit the final photographic and video imagery of the teams work.
- Inspire others to challenge the idea that some things are impossible
Some people probably just wanted to give the kids an opportunity.And, 226 backers gave a total of $5,100 to the team.
On July 29, 2012 the girls launched their weather balloon in the sky at 11:45 central time. With the help of a homemade satellite and GPS tracker, the girls continuously tracked the balloon during its entire flight. The team measured that, the balloon reached 118,000 feet above the ground and then it burst. After the burst, the camera inside the balloon started to fall down with the help of a parachute.
The girls believed that the camera attached with the balloon was capturing HD video and high-resolution still photographs during the entire journey. But actually it was not. Only the video camera recorded video, but the high-resolution digital camera didn’t take any picture.
Actually, the team leader Anna Scifres made a simple mistake. Before launching the balloon in the air, she cleaned all the SD cards of all the cameras. She re-inserted all the SD cards into the all cameras except for one – the high-resolution digital camera. She had also checked the high-resolution digital camera before the balloon launched. As the camera made sound when the shutter of the camera was pressed, so Anna assumed that she had inserted the SD card inside the camera. In reality, it was empty. However, she shouldn’t be sad, because the other footage seems to be amazing.
The return flight of the payload also faced some hurdles. The parachute didn’t land on the exact location as the girls expected. But, the girls found the parachute as well as the camera, hanging on a tree, 20-30 feet above from the ground, after a search mission. They brought down the camera and ensured everything was fine. Anna shared some of the still pictures pulled from the HD video footage.
Anna’s father David Scifres helped a lot from beginning to the end of their project. He mentioned that he will be sending backers at kickstarter.com a survey in the next few days to get physical addresses and email addresses so that he as well as the girls can send the footage taken during the flight to those people who supported for their project. David also mentioned that as soon as he produces a video of the entire project, he’ll email everybody.