The final frontier: Winnipeg students launch balloon, Lego gopher into upper stratosphere – Manitoba

Winnipeg teacher Gabe Kraljevic says it doesn’t take much to make it to space — well, almost to space.

“High-quality balloon, helium, some string, ingenuity, and bits and pieces from your kitchen and from Rona, and you got yourself a spacecraft,” said Kraljevic, a teacher at Garden City Collegiate.

On Friday, Kraljevic led a class of intrepid space travellers from the school in the launch of their contribution to the Global Space Balloon Challenge, an international event that challenges teams around the world to simultaneously fly high-altitude balloons.

The Garden City team flew a contraption made of two salad bowls into the upper stratosphere, at an altitude of 30 kilometres — still a little shy of the 100-kilometre height required to technically count as entering outer space.

It’s around three times the height a jetliner usually flies at, though, and high enough that the sky is black.

“It’s very cool to put something in space,” said Sarah Schroeder, one of the students in the class.

In their salad-bowl ship, students sent a bit of DNA along with ozone and UV sensors — plus their mascot, a tiny Lego gopher in a space suit. The plan was to see how the ozone and UV affected the DNA.

Their balloon was equipped with cameras and tracking equipment to capture its brief flight, and help find it after it fell back to earth. The cameras worked, but the tracking equipment failed. Luckily, students were still able to quickly track down the fallen balloon.

Kraljevic said the way they do it, space travel’s not an exact science anyway.

“It should be, but we are using salad bowls and duct tape,” he said.

The space balloon launched by students from Garden City Collegiate in Winnipeg captured this image while in flight. The balloon’s maximum altitude was 30 kilometres, still a bit short of the 100-kilometre altitude to qualify as outer space, but high enough the sky was black. (CBC)

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