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Launch ALPHA became BETA –

Remember as a kid trying that neighborhood dirt jump for the first time? Everything looked good – everyone was watching…what could go wrong? That pretty much sums up the scene of our initial launch!

Given our newfound 'days' of online research - we followed unspoken instructions and took too much faith that the Internet only spouts truths! We filled our weather balloon until it provided twice the lift of our 4pd. payload weight. Like a deckhand discounting an iceberg as 'rather' insignificant - we clearly failed to consider some things. They included the weight of the ropes, spindles, tape and chute...

With all eyes watching we fully expected the balloon to take off without a snag. Just 30 seconds later we could tell everything was NOT going to plan. Our beautiful capsule resembled an often seen tourist balloon as it lazily drifted East at less than 1000ft. Fortunately, using Google Maps we found dirt roads within 1/2 mile of it's Cholla cactus snare!

Launch BETA turned into ALPHA! –

We returned a week later with increased tenacity and knowledge to make it happen. Watching the balloon pick-up our 25lb barbell was impressive. Fortunate too - as we had nothing lighter! Studying wind pattens, re-calling our F.A.A. friends and fueling ourselves with Red Bull - a buzz 'filled' the air (most likely caffeine at first, but definitely a buzz!). Could breaking the magic 1hr happen?

With the morning sun teasing the horizon, our self-proclaimed Mission Commander released the craft. We all watched in amazement as it rocketed upwards, soon breaking the first layer of cloud cover and heading out of sight. We stood in more amazement as the morning sun perfectly illuminated our balloon providing one last glimpse before it accelerated towards the heavens...and destiny.

We adjourned to our McDonald’s base camp, enjoyed free Wi-Fi while we tracked our flight’s progress via the SPOT live update page. Anxiously refreshing the tracking page provided waypoints we needed - our craft was heading NE towards Globe, AZ. Ultimately the 10min. updates started to overlap on the map - our elapsed time was just seconds past 58 minutes. Our ‘chase’ convoy drove nearly 100 miles as there was simply no direct route. Looking at topographic maps - could it be that we missed landing in the desolate and rugged Arizona mountains? Could it really have landed only a mile from a PAVED road?

Our designated recovery element – made up of two long-distance runners sprang into action. Our Bobble-head survived its wild adventure (just cracking off its base). With our laptops fired up - our team was elated to see the darkness of space above the sea of clouds over Arizona! IT WORKED!!