Pupils prepare for the launch.

School children capture images from the edge of space

Two students from the University of Sheffield have helped school children in the city capture stunning images of the Earth from the edge of space.

Last year E&T Magazine reported how Alex Baker and Chris Rose, both PhD students from the university’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, sent a helium-filled balloon with two video cameras and a tracking device 37km into the atmosphere to film some breathtaking images.

The students have now shared their expertise with pupils from Sheffield High School during an out-of-this-world science and engineering lesson.

Like their maiden voyage, this month’s launch was a tremendous success. Despite soggy weather conditions the balloon captured some amazing images on its two hour flight.

“The launch was a resounding success. We set up at 8am at Sheffield High School, set the camera to record and the data sensing equipment to log the information and then filled the balloon and let go,” says Baker.

“The balloon’s flight time was two hours and 25 minutes and from our estimates we believe it reached altitudes of just over 30km. The equipment landed safely in a field near York where we, along with the pupils and their teachers, picked it up.

“The footage clearly shows the curvature of the earth, the thin blue line of the atmosphere and the blackness of space. The students involved seemed thrilled to be part of the project and were equally excited to see the brilliant images,” he says.

The device consisted of a foam box, a parachute for the descent and the balloon. The electronic equipment had to be well insulated due to the extremely cold temperatures at such high altitudes. A GPS tracking system, CATtrack, sent a text displaying its location when rung, allowing it to be collected. However, the whole device cost just £500 to build.

Baker and Rose are now hoping to inspire engineers of the future with further balloon launches with local schools in the region. If anyone is interested the students can be contacted at sentintospace@gmail.com.

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