Humans can not only put people on the moon, we can also send poems to space. On Thursday, September 20, 2012, a large helium-filled balloon was launched from Weston Park, west of the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, England. Equipped with two cameras, a GPS transponder, a thermometer, a heating pad, and two poems, the vehicle cost £350 pounds, and aside from the cargo, consisted mostly of the balloon itself, string, duct tape, and a polystyrene box serving as the cargo compartment. Two hours and 40 minutes later the shattered balloon and its cargo parachuted back to earth, touching down 70 miles north of Sheffield in Linton-Upon-Ouse, after reaching a height of over 21 miles.
The launch took place before sunrise, but as the balloon rose it caught the early rays of dawn well before light touched the ground. Accelerating at almost five meters (16 feet) every second, the balloon expanded as the pressurized helium in the balloon met less and less resistance as the air thinned. In the very thin upper atmosphere, four times the altitude at which jetliners cruise, the balloon suddenly ruptured, and after falling into denser air, a parachute blossomed out, slowing the long fall to Earth.
Weston Park was not the most attractive venue for a launch in the wee hours of the morning.
One of the poems was written by Lykara Ryder. She composed it during a trans-polar flight from the UK to the US, looking down from her window seat as the snow and ice-covered fields of far northern Canada gradually gave way to signs of habitation.
Window seat on a night flight
By Lykara Ryder
Beneath the sight-stealing white
mist, the lines of light
that mark the land are burned, like sun
spots, into my eyes until the horizon
smudges out. So
this grid of humanity below
has me puff and sigh, full of wonder
as crystals of water
lives that span the globe
and days that cross continents.
I dream until descent
of posted parcels, Army
boys coming home, the debris
of broken homes being flung
across the sky, now strung —
just like these lights — crosswise
above the earth below my eyes.
Cameras mounted in the cargo compartment recorded the ascent. Note the increase in the size of the balloon as the balloon rises.
Washington Apple Pi was faced with the choice of moving its office or paying higher rent. Eventually, the Pi negotiated with the landlord for a smaller space and lower rent. I took these photos along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, except the lower left photo which was taken at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia. The strange structure is a tank used as part of the restoration process for parts recovered from the USS Monitor, of Civil War fame. What do these have in common? (full size).