This LaunchPSU (the sixth) was a freaking bone crusher for me—that ended well, at least.
The launch was conducted in collaborated with Kevin Carr, Associate Professor of education at George Fox University, who was heading a weeklong seminar in Bend for a fun group of Tillamook School teachers. The aim of the George Fox program is to equip teachers with more knowledge about science and new ways of looking at teaching. The balloon launch was to demonstrate one project idea by lifting four of the teacher’s experiments to > 90,000ft or so and return them with data, images, cooties, etc.
Anyway, almost everything for this launch went perfect. Perfect preparation, perfect plan, perfect group! It’s just that the stupid GPS must have become unplugged from the radio transmitter while we were messing around just before the launch. Everything worked perfectly just before we connected all the lines for the final countdown. So we released the balloon, and readily received transmissions from the balloon, but always the same (the initial) GPS coordinates. So, my heart sank and my bones crumbled as I had to explain to Kevin and the teachers we just sent our balloon and their payloads to Siberia for all I knew.
The group was very kind about the whole thing and we went on a chase anyway. But it was overcast and we certainly weren’t going to see anything. And we didn’t. But we had a dog tracking beacon that we had duct taped to the payload and amazingly we were able to track the descent of the payloads to the horizon straight north of our position and straight south of Prineville Reservoir. [Note: The dog tracker is good for a distance of up to 7 miles (we later realized it was detecting a signal over 30 miles away!] We knew it was tracking the correct signal when both the (faulty) GPS signal and dog tracker signal ceased at the same time. So we were hopeful we might still find the package using the dog tracker, and we spent some time looking. Our team’s as well as our Balloon’s journey is shown in an attached map. We drove all over beautiful country, and with great vistas for scanning the land with the antennae, but no luck. Turns out we were too far south. I felt terrible all day and we said goodbye to Kevin and the teachers that afternoon and returned home. That hurt.
The next day Yongkang, Donovan, Matthias and I returned to the region (we figured it was in a 225 square mile zone!)—kind of hopeful, but not really. We stopped North of Prineville, Donovan got out the doggy antennae and picked up a signal. We drove 15 miles across the valley in that direction and picked up the same signal again much stronger. We eventually walked right up to the thing laying on the desert floor as you can see in the pics. I was happy alright. We put the stuff in the car and headed for George Fox University and caught Kevin before the end of the day to give him the teacher’s experiments. We also gave him copies of our pictures which were stunning as usual. Thank you dog tracker. You will fly again.