While checking the status of my Palm Desert balloon tracking station on aprs.fi, I noticed the balloon KM6HCB-11 was traveling overhead. With the help of Google, I discovered it was launched by Science Heads, a Southern California STEM organization for middle and high school students. And I could participate remotely from La Jolla.

Because of Covid restrictions, this was a virtual launch shown on GoToWebcast as the “flight directors” tracked the balloon on aprs.fi and announced the telemetry data to the student audience. They also coordinated with the chase and recovery team approximately 100 miles away via amateur radio on the Papa System, a repeater network covering most of Southern California.

Once the balloon landed in the nearby mountains, the excitement began. We followed the recovery team arriving on the scene, then hiking up the wash towards the landing location. Topo maps indicated steep terrain requiring a hike with an approximately 600 ft vertical gain.

The team sent back photos as they progressed, reaching a point halfway to the balloon (approximately in the middle of the top picture) before determining it as unsafe to continue.

All was not lost, as the science payload earlier broke off from the balloon and landed on a local golf course. Fortunately , a good samaritan golfer retrieved the package, called the number of the outside of the container (Note to self) and took this photo as well.

I trusted the students found this webcast as exciting as I did. It’s an outstanding example of the virtual experiences we can provide our students under Covid restrictions. A recording of the webcast should be posted on the http://ScienceHeads.org website soon.

Also on the site is a full description of their program; very complete and well documented. I highly recommend it.