Space mission yields stunning images

The moment when the weather balloon burst © Mark Neal, Prifysgol Aberystwyth University

The moment when the weather balloon burst © Mark Neal, Prifysgol Aberystwyth University

13 June 2014

The space mission launched from Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth on Thursday 12 June has provided some stunning images of Wales from the sky.

The mission was launched from the School’s playground at 10.45am on Thursday 12 June with the help of a robotics expert at Aberystwyth University.

Images include breath-taking views of Aberystwyth, mid Wales, Cardigan Bay, the Llyn Peninsular, the south west of England and a stunning image of the moment when the weather balloon burst and the parachute deployed.

The images were taken by an on-board GoPro camera housed within a polystyrene capsule, which was tethered to the weather balloon.

The technology for the mission was developed by Dr Mark Neal, co-ordinator of the Intelligent Robotics Research Group at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science, and a parent at the school.

As well as the camera, the capsule also housed GPS trackers and an on-board computer to measure altitude, temperature and the motion of the balloon.

The highest point recorded during the mission 26,382.45m. However, Dr Neal believes it may well have reached around 32,000 metres as the instruments on board indicate it kept on climbing for some time after the point when that highest reading was taken.

Temperatures varied greatly during the mission. At the point of launching, the temperature was 22.3oC. At 2,800 metres it was 7.7oC and at the higher recorded point it had fallen to -38.39oC.

Total mission time, from launch to touchdown was 2 hours 51 minutes. And the distance from the launch site to the field near Llandrindod Wells, where it landed, was 49.6km.

Dr Neal said: “This has been a wonderful experience and the enthusiasm of the children at Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth has been fantastic. Technically, I’m amazed at how well everything has gone, the launch and the way the equipment on board has worked. The ease with which we got the capsule back was a surprise. In all honesty, I expected to spend days for it!”

“The images and the data we collected have made this all so worthwhile, however none of these sensors we used are rated to anything like the low pressures and temperatures they would have experienced on a mission like this one, so the data must be treated with a pinch of salt”, he added.

Mr Clive Williams, Headmaster of Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth said; “Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth is very proud to have been the venue for this exciting mission. From the very beginning, the whole event has created a buzz of excitement in the school and a real desire amongst the pupils to learn more about the world around us, the environment we live in, and of course, space. As one would expect with any space mission, there was always an element of uncertainty that everything would work. To find the capsule in a field near Llandrindod Wells and to be able get the stunning images taken by the on-board camera prove beyond any doubt that this is a mission accomplished.

“Of course, all this would not have been possible without the involvement of the pupils, the teachers, the parents, the sponsors and the many friends of Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth. We are very grateful for their support”, he added.

The mission was been developed by pupils, staff and parents at Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth, with the support of Eco-Schools Wales, animator Tim Allen / @TimAnimation, Keith Morris Photography and Ultracomida

Follow Mark Neal’s blog on the mission here