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High-Altitude Balloon Tweets Earth 49

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the do-that-yourself dept.
celsomartinho writes "Spacebits is yet another low-cost High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) with a computer probe being launched to near space on 30 May, this time in Portugal. The twist with this project, besides the cool electronics, cameras, and sensors on board, is the fact that the team provided the online community with a real-time web dashboard so that everyone can follow the two-hour journey up to 100,000 feet and back to earth. Real-time data includes measurements from all its sensors, including temperature, pressure, humidity and air quality, altitude, acceleration, and GPS coordinates and a live Twitter feed. The team is also using a public GSM network to send SMS lat/lon/alt coordinates to anyone willing to go on launch site and participate in the probe hunt." The balloon goes off Memorial Day weekend, so bookmark the page if you're on call.
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High-Altitude Balloon Tweets Earth

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  • Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2010 @08:58AM (#32322148)

    A mindless orb looking down on us all posting updates about its uninteresting activities? How will we distinguish this from anybody else on Twitter?

  • Memorial day? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crimperman (225941) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:00AM (#32322168) Homepage

    Okay I have learned to live with things like putting "Portugal, Europe" instead of just Portugal but was there a reason that "Memorial Day weekend" seemed more appropriate than an actual date? This kind of thing does nothing to dispel the rumours that the USA doesn't recognise places outside of its borders you know.

    • "Portugal, Europe" - is there another continent that has a country called Portugal? Also those noobs deserve to go down after the stunt they pulled in the Spanish civil war.
      • "Portugal, Europe" - is there another continent that has a country called Portugal? Also those noobs deserve to go down after the stunt they pulled in the Spanish civil war.

        It was no doubt intended to differentiate the country Portugal from this [city-data.com] major U.S. metropolis.

    • by gsslay (807818)

      I think you misunderstand. This balloon is an historical event. So it has a memorial day assigned to it before it's even been launched. We don't know what date that is yet, just that it will be a weekend.

      Oh, and it will ascend to 100,000 feet, rounding up the 30,000 Portuguese meters to something more sensible.

      • Portugese Meters? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gonoff (88518)

        There were a few meters on the page to measure things but they were all in English.
        I assume you are talking about units of distance. Metres are used almost everwhere exept the USA. Not just Portugal.

        30,000m does not round nicely to anything from the pre-industrial measurement system. According to my phone, it is 98,425.1968504 feet, 149.1290861 furlongs and a load of other peculiar things that nobody has ever heard of. The best I can offer is 18.6410985 miles.

        • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

          by nunoloureiro (1162373)

          Metres are used almost everwhere exept the USA. Not just Portugal.

          The USA is not the only country that uses imperial units officially. Liberia, and Myanmar also use them.

          • by pjt33 (739471)

            And? Is more than 99% of countries (including the really big ones) not sufficient to qualify as "almost everywhere"?

        • by gsslay (807818)

          That whoosh you are hearing is something going over your head, how far over you can measure what ever way you wish.

          30,000 metres does indeed round up to 100,000 feet, if you are more concerned about clinging to antique US-centric measurements than any kind of accuracy. Which was kind of the whole point.

    • The poster put in "Portugal, Europe" even though Europe is not a country (I have been shouted at by gen-u-wine anti-American Europeans for daring to say so) and CmdrTaco put in the ignorant comment about "memorial day weekend" without even capitalizing Memorial Day. Hey, CmdrTaco, can you tell me why is it, exactly, that you get a three-day weekend at the beginning of summer?

      And as far as the crack about America not recognizing places outside its borders, how would you think the average Indonesian's gras

      • How many EU citizens can even remember the name who they voted for as their EU member of parliament in the last election?

        We don't vote for MEPs, we vote for parties. And yes, everyone I know who has voted can remember in which party they've voted for.
        Mine was Bloco de Esquerda, and it's first MEP is Miguel Portas [europa.eu].

      • by gsslay (807818)

        And as far as the crack about America not recognizing places outside its borders,

        Actually, the crack was about "the USA". But you will already have spotted the glorious irony of your mistake.

        • Actually, the intentional mistake was saying that Europeans have a representative government, which is untrue and I had hoped you'd call me out on that one. But people see what they want to see, you know.
    • I was going to sign up to get the data, then I realized it would be in metric units, since the balloon would be in Europe, and I wouldn't understand it.

      That, and I am not a twit, or whatever you call someone with a twitter account.
    • by jonadab (583620)
      > Okay I have learned to live with things like putting "Portugal, Europe" instead of just Portugal

      I haven't. People who don't know where Portugal is (and yeah, I know some people like that) are unlikely to gain significant additional insight by the addition of the word "Europe". You'd have to have slept through every history and geography class you ever had starting in third grade. Such people don't know enough about Europe to attach any real meaning to it as a location.

      I mean, there are some countrie
      • I haven't. People who don't know where Portugal is (and yeah, I know some people like that) are unlikely to gain significant additional insight by the addition of the word "Europe". You'd have to have slept through every history and geography class you ever had starting in third grade. Such people don't know enough about Europe to attach any real meaning to it as a location.

        I think it gives some additional insight. Once, I met an American who thought Portugal was next to Brazil. At least by reading this, there's no doubt that Portugal is not in South America.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Rio de Janerio was the capital of Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th Century, so there is at least a source of confusion over which continent the country is really located at. The capital was moved (with the royal family, government seals, and library/archives) to keep it from falling under French control. That was also one of the seeds for the independence of Brazil, as trying to move the capital back to Lisbon proved to be a bit more complicated than they thought it would be when the war en

          • Rio de Janerio was the capital of Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th Century, so there is at least a source of confusion over which continent the country is really located at. The capital was moved (with the royal family, government seals, and library/archives) to keep it from falling under French control. That was also one of the seeds for the independence of Brazil, as trying to move the capital back to Lisbon proved to be a bit more complicated than they thought it would be when the war ended. Some of the bureaucracy simply didn't want to go back.

            Do you really think that someone that doesn't know where Portugal is located, is because they are familiar with Portugal's History and they got confused by it?

    • what are these places of which you speak? my version of google earth just says "here be dragons"
    • Okay I have learned to live with things like putting "Portugal, Europe" instead of just Portugal but was there a reason that "Memorial Day weekend" seemed more appropriate than an actual date? This kind of thing does nothing to dispel the rumours that the USA doesn't recognise places outside of its borders you know.

      The date was in the summary - right in the second line. The comment about Memorial Day weekend (incorrectly not capitalized) was at the end and added to the summary by the editor. So anyone see

      • Odd I don't recall seeing it when I read TFS the first few times. Anyway, point taken about the date. I think there is some "'evidence' of anything about the USA" given that memorial day is a holiday in that country only (as far as I know) and thus putting such a comment into the summary will really only immediately mean something to readers from the USA. As someone else said the rest of us need to look it up.

  • Tweet! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:01AM (#32322176)

    11:00 : I'm flying!
    11:05 : Still flying!
    11:10 : Yep. Still flying.
    11:15 : I'm bored.
    11:20 : I spy with my little eye something beginning with S.
    11:25 : Yep. It was sky. I'm so bored.
    11:35 : Booooring. ...
    13:15 : Kiiiil meeee. Kiiiiiil meeee please...

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      11:00 : Beep!
      11:05 : Beep!
      11:10 : Beep!
      11:15 : Beep!
      11:20 : Beep!
      11:25 : Beep!
      11:35 : Beep!
      13:15 : Beep!

      -- Sputnik's twitter feed. Ah, the good old' days...

  • Does this sound possible? What if we take some HABs and tether them to an amature rocket. Might it be possible to get into space on the cheap? Maybe we can crash into the moon or something.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sznupi (719324)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockoon [wikipedia.org]

      And one of the teams in Lunar X Prize plans to use it, I believe. It even seems like a dedicated amateur team might ease their way into space that way, too (at least if by "space" we mean strictly "just a bit above 100km", suborbital flight)

    • Re:Launch platform (Score:5, Informative)

      by Teancum (67324) <robert_horningNO@SPAMnetzero.net> on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:05AM (#32322814) Homepage Journal

      Yes, this is not only possible, but happening. I don't know about getting to the Moon, but getting into orbit is something that is actively being tried. One really cool video of a rocket getting launched off of a balloon can be found here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnq3r3tRVP0 [youtube.com]

      This was launched by JP Aerospace [jpaerospace.com] and is the real thing, from a balloon flying at 10k feet. It was merely a demo flight to test the flight control hardware and to make sure that a rocket actually would launch... and in this case it was just an Estes rocket shoved in a tube when the flight computer remotely ignited the fuse to launch the rocket. The trick was to get the rocket to launch at all, not necessarily to go anywhere.

      One other interesting group is the N-Prize [n-prize.com] that is offering a £10k prize for the first team to launch something into orbit for under £1000. What is really crazy is that there are several teams working on the idea, and that some of them are actually in the process of "bending metal" and trying to make it work. Even if it is just a ping-pong ball sent into orbit, that would be some kind of accomplishment to get a payload of that size to orbital velocities.

      Yet another group using this approach is ARCA [googlelunarxprize.org], and these guys are trying to get to the Moon. They are one of the original X-Prize teams that showed some real promise and have kept tweaking their rocket designs, with the latest attempts for getting to orbit using a very different kind of rocket staging system that you've simply got to see to believe. It pulls up each stage on a tether instead of pushing it up as a disintegrating pyramid.... presumably to develop economies of scale. They are doing most of their launches over the Black Sea, and is perhaps the one group using balloons that I think will get into orbit first.

  • This in fact is not new, various groups have had quite sophisticated online tracking for some time. Perhaps the best of the bunch is the UKHAS [1] balloon tracking program which you can find here:

    http://www.spacenear.us/tracker [spacenear.us]

    It's open source (of course!) and is run on bits of software contributed by various groups. It integrates with the UKHAS 'distributed listener', where anyone with a suitable radio (most HAMs) can listen in to a balloon flight and automatically decode and upload telemetry to the online

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