Saturday, May 4, 2013
NIGHTMARES - or Everything That Can Possibly Go WRONG!
I think it's prudent to caution my readers about sending anything up to "near space" - the 30,000 meter, 100,000 feet, 20 mile range. My one word of advice to anyone even thinking about doing this would be -- DON'T.
There are plenty of things that can go wrong. I got lucky - and having achieved what I set out to do, wouldn't do it again. But that's me. For those of you who are still interested, here are some of the things that can ruin your day.
The balloon is big It can break. And it ain't cheap. I don't know about you - but I wouldn't want to be anywhere near one of those babies when they pop - which is why I had my wife hold our balloon during the launch. Weather balloons, despite their size are incredibly delicate and must be handled extremely carefully. Someone suggested that I get a couple of hundred condoms, fill them with helium and let them go. The problem would be that they wouldn't burst all at once and the balloon could drift for a very long time. Funny idea though...
Let's talk about drift. Sure. Send it up. Fine. But where does it wind up? You might have clearance to launch/fly your balloon in your territory - I had clearance to fly mine in Canada. However, if your balloon drifts across an international boundary, you must have clearance for that and any other territory it may cross. Had my balloon drifted into the United States, I'd probably be a guest of Homeland Security today. I was reasonably sure that my balloon would not drift across Lake Ontario into New York State - we launched from far enough North to ensure that. However, the winds took it (unexpectedly) WEST. Had it crossed Lake Huron into Michigan (which could have reasonably happened), I would have been in big trouble.
MORE DRIFT. Balloons cannot fly over populated areas. You are liable for any damage that they may cause when they come down. Should your parachute system fail, you could have nearly 4 pounds of junk slamming into the ground at terminal velocity which is nearly 200 miles per hour. I don't think that my insurance would cover that.
EVEN MORE DRIFT. Airplanes. The last thing that you want, is your balloon to hit any kind of aircraft. This would be catastrophic - and as I said many, many times before the launch - "It's all fun and games until you cause a 747 to crash".
There are rules and regulations from Transport Canada and The FAA which must be followed. Look them up online. Also - check the rules and regulations of neighboring territories. I don't know if the rules vary from state to state or province to province - but be aware of that.