A GROUP OF space industry professionals launched a balloon into the sky in Kerry this week and captured stunning photos from the edge of space.
The International Space University (ISU) is hosting its 30th Space Studies Program at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) this summer, bringing with it 320 international space professionals from 26 countries, including five astronauts.
Throughout the nine week programme, 100 future space leaders are being offered the opportunity to engage in projects and talks with professionals who specialise in electronics, robotics, rocketry and humanities.
As part of the program, the trainees had to design, construct and launch rockets successfully. One of these projects involved the launch of a space balloon, which the Irish Rocketry Society (IRS) aided in.
“[The ISU] said about two months ago that they were thinking of doing a space balloon launch, but they didn’t know the requirements in Ireland and asked if we could help out,” James Grandfield from the IRS said.
“This is a project I’ve been wanting to do for years, so I said I’d organise it.”
The space balloon, with a package on board containing cameras, GPS trackers and other electronics, was launched at midday from the Met Eireann Observatory in Cahersiveen, Kerry.
“The hope was at the very least to capture some stunning images and videos from the edge of space, showing the curvature of the earth,” Grandfield told TheJournal.ie.
Grandfield explained the simple, yet effective design of the balloon – a normal weather balloon, with a parachute connected underneath, along with a styrofoam box. Inside the box is a series of cameras, electronic equipment and a GPS.
“When it went up, the balloon was going to reach nearly 100,000 feet above the ground,” Grandfield said.
“We launched it at 12.30pm, two and a half hours later it landed in a field in Clare which was full of cows. We recovered that, everything came back in one piece.
We opened the box and took out of the memory cards. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any playback but the pictures were absolutely stunning.
TheJournal.ie asked Grandfield if there are plans to launch more space balloons in Ireland in the near future, however he said that this launch was a once off for the time being.
With five space agencies involved in the program – Nasa, the European Space Agency, China, India and Japan – it was a massive achievement for Cork, according to Grandfield.
“It’s going to put Ireland on the map in the space industry and it’s going to help get us more involved in different projects,” he said.
The big thing is education. It’s inspiring students and young people. For Ireland to produce a future astronaut or rocket scientists, that’s what it’s all about.