MIT Global Space Balloon team raises awareness for Shriners Hospital

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Photo Gallery | MIT students participate in Global Space Balloon Challenge

Video | MIT's Global Space Balloon Team launches its balloon from Gulf Farm in Cheshire

Video | MIT balloon launch in Cheshire

CHESHIRE — The 10-foot high, white latex balloon floated in the air for a moment, and as two Massachusetts Institute of Technology students let it go, shot into the atmosphere. The small contingent of about 10 students erupted in cheers.

The launch Sunday morning was part of a worldwide Global Space Balloon Challenge. There were several specialized experiments enclosed in the balloon's small styrofoam container. But the main reason for MIT's participation in the Challenge, according to graduate student Duncan Miller, was to raise awareness for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston. Shriners Hospital treats children for a host of diseases and maladies regardless of their ability to pay.

"We joined the Challenge to represent Boston, to meet other space enthusiasts and to make a difference in our community" said Miller. "The MIT Space Balloon team is dedicating our high altitude balloon launch to those courageous children."

The launch took place at Gulf Farm on Savoy Road in Cheshire. Miller said one of the MIT team members knew owners Ed and Brenda Clairmont.

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"We needed a big open area so the balloon wouldn't get snagged in the trees," said Miller. "The field here was perfect."

A total of 227 balloons from around the world were launched over the past week, according to Bernadette White, director of publicity for Shriners. The balloons go about 100,000 feet into the air, and conduct experiments while they are going up. The balloons are tracked and recovered and the data is shared by the scientific community.

Prizes are awarded for the balloon that goes the highest, and the most interesting experiments, said Miller.

Two of the experiments this specific balloon was carrying include a special sound monitor. Instrumental music will be played as the balloon ascends, and it will be recorded. The tones are expected to change as the balloon ascends, said Miller. The recording will monitor those changes.

Another experiment is the placement of a video camera under the balloon that will record the ground and sky as the balloon goes up in the air.

"We expect the balloon to get up past 100,000 feet," said Miller. "At that height, you can see the curvature of the earth. We should get some awesome pictures."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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