MN high school student launches balloon, GoPro camera into atmosphere

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Captured by Totino Grace senior Jens Rataczak

A Totino-Grace High School student launched a weather balloon 20 miles into the atmosphere and captured incredible footage of the earth’s curvature. The experiment was on display at an exhibition on Sunday.

“It was exciting to watch the GoPro footage and identify visual locations such as Lake Mille Lacs and the Mississippi River,” senior Jens Rataczak said.

Rataczak completed the experiment as part of his Engineering Institute Capstone Project. The initial goal was to launch a weather balloon as high as possible to obtain visual images, but during his research he came across a number of similar projects online and decided to take his idea to the next level.

"He designed devices to include additional tracking to enhance the project results and measurements,” the school said in a press release. “His design was enhanced to include temperature, pressure, altitude, and acceleration tracking in addition to audio and visual recording.”

The balloon's location and altitude was transmitted to a computer on the ground so that the path of the flight was stored and tracked.

“The goal was to get the balloon to 100,000 feet but the final altitude reached was 107,363 feet, over 20 miles, before the balloon burst,” Rataczak said. “I was able to track it for four hours, obtaining updates every few minutes.”

The balloon started at a diameter of 8 feet, and expanded to nearly 40 feet prior to bursting from atmospheric pressure. It then dropped into a cornfield belonging to a friendly man in Glenwood, Wisconsin.

“We had a fun encounter with the property owner who was really interested in hearing about the project after asking to collect it from the cornfield,” Rataczak said.

Beyond his academic accomplishments, Rataczak is a member of the varsity baseball team and serves on the executive board for the National Honor Society. He’s in the process of finalizing his college selection where he plans to study mechanical or aerospace engineering.

Scroll below to watch video captured, or click here