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Balloon from DePauw program soars to record 125,200 feet

Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's one for the record books for DePauw University's Balloon Assisted Stratospheric Experiments (BASE) program.

Saturday's record-setting flight, the 67th in the program's history, took place in Rantoul, Ill. A helium-filled balloon carried an assortment of radios and meteorological sensors into the stratosphere and climbed to a height of 125,200 feet before the balloon burst.

The program brings together students from the university and nearby K-12 schools to design and build experiments with helium weather balloons.

The launch took place in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 scouts and adult volunteers at Space Jam 5.

"This is the eighth-highest altitude ever achieved by a latex balloon, and exceeded the previous record in the BASE program by more than 20,000 feet," reports DePauw Prof. Howard L. Brooks, who oversees the program.

"Although the balloon made a track above the earth's surface that was 70 miles long, the distance between the launch and landing points was only 4.4 miles," noted Brooks, who is Paul B. Kissinger professor of physics and astronomy at DePauw and chairs his department.

That marked the fourth shortest distance ever for a stratospheric balloon flight," Brooks said.

"No single flight has ever made the record books for both maximum height and shortest distance," he added.

BASE 67 was the 11th and final flight of a summer season that included 10 flights for the Science Research Fellows program investigating electromagnetic showers in lead.

Researchers from Purdue University added experiments to the flight string on two occasions, while students from Cloverdale High School participated on one flight through the Bridge 2 Science program.

BASE 68 is scheduled for Oct. 8. Launch will be from the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis as part of Celebrate Science Indiana.

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