Into the wild, blue yonder


TROY — Sierra Craig, a fifth grade student from Washington, Pa., launched a weather balloon into the stratosphere on Sunday morning from historic WACO Field as her science fair project. She chose WACO because of its flat surface; her home state’s terrain and high density of trees made tracking and recovery of the balloon unlikely.

“We were also hoping to tie some educational and historical value into the event,” said Sierra’s father, John Craig. “(WACO) appears to be well-suited for both.”

As stated on her GoFundMe page, the purpose of Sierra’s experiment was to study the effect of altitude on pressure and temperature using a weather balloon and sensor payload. Her goal was to send a small sensor package 100,000 feet into space — into the region of the Earth’s atmosphere that NASA calls “near space.”

The weather balloon features a tracking device that uses GPS to interface with Google maps and has GoPro cameras on board.

A group of WACO Aviation Cadets were present for the launch and sat in as Sierra held a briefing on her project. The cadets also participated as ground crew for the launch in the 13-degree weather, on a bright and clear morning at WACO Field.

On her GoFundMe site, 11-year-old Sierra stated, “Last year, I won my 4th grade competition with a study on light and lasers. This year the pressure is high to succeed because each of my four older sisters won both of their 4th and 5th grade science fair competitions.”

The balloon was launched around 10:45 a.m. and was in the air for around four hours.

The payload returned to Earth somewhere near Dexter City, Ohio, an estimated distance of 178 miles from the launch site, according to Nancy Heiss-Royer, Learning Center director for WACO.

The Craig family immediately went about searching to locate the payload.

Once the payload is recovered, Sierra will begin the task of analyzing the data that was recorded during the flight.

The payload for Sierra’s weather balloon consists of a GPS locator device, left, an atmospheric measuring device, far right, that records a variety of information, including altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, as well as other information, a pack of four AA batteries to power the instruments, and a pair of small cameras to record a visual record of the flight.
http://dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_MU2_65291.jpgThe payload for Sierra’s weather balloon consists of a GPS locator device, left, an atmospheric measuring device, far right, that records a variety of information, including altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, as well as other information, a pack of four AA batteries to power the instruments, and a pair of small cameras to record a visual record of the flight.

Sierra places a WACO sticker onto the styrofoam payload cover of her science project.
http://dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_MU2_65831.jpgSierra places a WACO sticker onto the styrofoam payload cover of her science project.

Sierra gives a mission brief to WACO Aviation Cadets.
http://dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_MU2_6597.jpgSierra gives a mission brief to WACO Aviation Cadets.

Sierra, center, and her dad, John, far left, do a pre-flight checklist.
http://dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_MU2_6629.jpgSierra, center, and her dad, John, far left, do a pre-flight checklist.

Sierra, far right, and her father, John, use a scale to measure the amount of positive lift prior to liftoff.
http://dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_MU2_6705.jpgSierra, far right, and her father, John, use a scale to measure the amount of positive lift prior to liftoff.

All is ready as Sierra and her dad have removed the safety tethers and prepare the balloon and its payload for launching from Historic WACO Field in Troy, Ohio.
http://dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_MU2_6725.jpgAll is ready as Sierra and her dad have removed the safety tethers and prepare the balloon and its payload for launching from Historic WACO Field in Troy, Ohio.

Mike Ullery | Daily Call Sierra Craig, center, along with her crew, make final checks before launching a weather balloon at WACO Field on Sunday morning. The fifth-grader, from Washington, Pa., came to Ohio to complete her science project. The helium balloon was designed to carry cameras and atmospheric-sensing devices to an altitude of approximately 90,000 feet. She and her crew were going to follow the balloon’s path using GPS tracking devices and hope to recover the payload after it descends to Earth by parachute.
http://dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_012416mju_waco_weatherballoon22.jpgMike Ullery | Daily Call Sierra Craig, center, along with her crew, make final checks before launching a weather balloon at WACO Field on Sunday morning. The fifth-grader, from Washington, Pa., came to Ohio to complete her science project. The helium balloon was designed to carry cameras and atmospheric-sensing devices to an altitude of approximately 90,000 feet. She and her crew were going to follow the balloon’s path using GPS tracking devices and hope to recover the payload after it descends to Earth by parachute.

Mike Ullery | Daily Call Sierra Craig, center, along with her crew, begin to inflate a weather balloon at WACO Field on Sunday morning. The western Pennsylvania fifth-grader came to Ohio to complete her science project.
http://dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_012416mju_waco_weatherballoon12.jpgMike Ullery | Daily Call Sierra Craig, center, along with her crew, begin to inflate a weather balloon at WACO Field on Sunday morning. The western Pennsylvania fifth-grader came to Ohio to complete her science project.
Girl launches balloon from WACO

Mike Ullery contributed to this story. He can be reached at (937) 451-3335.

 

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