A large NASA research balloon crashed during its takeoff in Australia, its multi-million dollar research equipment was thrown everywhere and the balloon finally collapsed right in front of everyone as they watched in horror still stunned from the events.
The research balloon was supposed to float up to the edge of space and gather data such as x-rays and gamma rays emitted by far off galaxies and stars. Scientists were thrown off by the unexpected intense winds as they pulled the balloon’s research equipment basket away from its moorings while it was being readied for launch.
Australian television stations were there in order to cover the liftoff which was near the town of Alice Springs, so there is a lot of news coverage of the traumatic balloon crash. Footage shows the intense winds heaving the research balloon’s undercarriage and then slamming it into just about everything in its path including a parked vehicle and throwing it on its side as it kept going. Basically the balloon devastated everything in its path and then collapsed on the ground after all its research equipment was destroyed.
There was complete confusion and panic as the balloon just prior to lift off was swept up by the wind and people could view it being literally yanked away as if it was a toy. Research debris was everywhere and unfortunately due to the force at which it crashed, most of it looked as though it was a complete loss.
The balloon equipment that was destroyed consisted of a rare telescope that was said to be worth in the vicinity of 10 million dollars.
The director of the Alice Springs Balloon Launching Center where the NASA research balloon was being launched, expressed his complete regret over losing not only the equipment itself, but the countless hours that it took research people to put this project together. Many research people that had put so much time and effort into making this project come together and to have this happen was disheartening.
The x-ray research telescope was called HERO and designed to essentially map the galactic core. The other telescope that was onboard the research undercarriage was the Nuclear Compton Telescope which is a gamma ray telescope that belonged to researchers at UC Berkeley. The research balloon was designed to deliver instruments to near space in order to record the research data. The balloon wreckage has now been hauled to a private staging area in which an preliminary assessment can be made as to whether any portion of the equipment may be salvageable enough to proceed or whether both scopes are too far damaged to proceed.
I have been attempting all day to reach Bill Brown who is the VP of High Altitude Research Corp. Bill works at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where he does “Near Space” balloon satellites on a regular basis providing space related research and development for NASA. As well as “BalloonSat” experiments for numerous commercial companies and universities. I was hoping to reach him for his response to today’s research balloon crash and the loss of the equipment, however I have been unsuccessful.
References for this article include: www.wb8elk.com