Have your kids check out these video links of University of Minnesota scientists launching a weather balloon from Target Field on Sunday -- complete with a baseball autographed by Twins' sluggers Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham. This clip is of the balloon leaving Target Field (scroll ahead a couple minutes for the launch) and this clip is of the ball cruising tens of thousands of feet up toward the edge of Earth's atmosphere. (Note: the videos are a little dizzying as the balloon encounters wind and turbulence.)



The balloon was launched by a student team led by James Flaten, associate director of the Minnesota Space Grant Consortium and a U assistant professor. The mission had its bumps. The balloon experienced so much turbulence that the main antenna used to track its movements broke at about 55,000 feet. The payload was pushed into the balloon and popped it at about 63,000 feet. The goal had been to get the balloon to 70,000 feet or higher before it popped and descended.

The team had projected that the balloon would descend and land somewhere in the area of New Richmond, Wisc. Not far off! They found it instead in a corn field east of River Falls, Wisc.

Here is Flaten's description of the event: "We had some challenges with severe turbulence starting about 50,000 feet so we didn't get as high as such a balloon would typically go, but our general goals were all achieved ...  We did lose our main tracking radio (the video shows the violence of the turbulence it was dealing with) but we had a second low-power radio on-board, transmissions from which we were able to pick up by driving around in the area where it was expected to land. But we were searching in the wrong place for a while, the place where the main radio fell, so that delayed our recovery by a few hours."



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