Santa Launch – 12/8/12

We have collaborated with some enthusiastic K-12 educators who took our high-altitude ballooning workshop for teachers. Their students had some experiments to fly, so decided to incorporate a launch at the Strategic Air and Space Museum as a special demonstration for their Holiday Air Affair. There were many fun activities happening inside the museum including a visit from Santa.

To make the pods more festive, we wrapped them in bows as presents. We also wanted to include a very special hitchhiker – an inflatable Santa. My prediction was that he would not survive the trip. I thought that the vinyl would become cold and brittle and the decrease in atmospheric pressure would cause it to bust a seam and deflate long before it reached altitude.

The teachers prepared the system as the students supervised. It was a little chilly, but not bitterly cold.



Ho, ho, ho, and away he goes!

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Here are some photos from one of the pods pointing down.

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How is Santa doing?

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Uh oh.

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Santa would have loved this view.


After the balloon burst, the arm holding the camera was moved to a different angle and the pod was partially covering the field of view.

In this photo you will see many small white lines. That is a field of several large wind turbines.

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In this image, you can see the sunlight glinting off a lake in Iowa on the left and the wind farm on the right.

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Here is the touch down.

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Notice the orange figure in the distance.


It was deer hunting season and we chased the balloon to the middle of a field where sportsmen in several vehicles were gathered. We arrived very shortly after touch down, but these three intrepid young hunters saw the descent and were already investigating.


We brought along orange vests just for this occasion.


We asked the boys if they touched the pods after they landed, just wanting to get a photograph of the string of pods in situ before we picked them up. They said, “No.”

The photographic evidence from the camera on the pod said otherwise.

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They were very helpful and we gave them a small reward for finding it before we got there, even if it was only by a few minutes.

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All that remained of the inflatable Santa were his little hands that were tied to the bottom present pod. Ouch!


The best part of the launch was watching the footage of the incident where Santa’s integrity failed.

It is difficult to watch this video (27 sec.) and not say, “OH!” when it happens.


Fortunately, the real Santa was back at the museum, safely ensconced in a fighter jet listening to all of the good boys and girls who came to visit him.

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