It’s no secret that we love high-altitude balloons and the science that can be explored with them. So when we see places around the country exposing high altitude balloon technology to large crowds at really popular events, we get pretty excited about it. One of StratoStar’s customers was asked to conduct a mission from a Minnesota Twins Game! Over this and our next two blogs, we’ll explore some of the behind-the-scenes actions that led up to the launch.
In conjunction with AirSpace Minnesota, the University of Minnesota and specifically Dr. James Flaten, Ph.D., the Associate Director of the Minnesota Space Grant, began planning for the Minnesota Aerospace and Aviation Week for September of 2012. They were able to talk Bob Cabana, Director of the Kenney Space Center and Minnesota native, in coming back to his home state to visit and speak at local schools. They learned just before he arrived that he was a baseball fan, so they arranged for him to attend a Minnesota Twins game while he was there. They were able to turn this baseball game into a promotional event for the other events that would take place during the Minnesota Aerospace and Aviation Week.
During the pre-game show, the Twins planned to introduce Cabana on the field, as well as highlight a number of the events taking place during the week. But they wanted something more, though; something that would really bring home the importance and fun that could be packed into a week full of science and aviation.
After tossing around a few ideas, they finally decided on—and the Twins agreed to—launch a high-altitude balloon from the field. The Twins realized that a couple of their sluggers, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham, could finally “launch a ball into space.” So Morneau and Willingham signed a baseball, and Dr. Flaten and students attached the baseball to a boom arm from the payload.
On September 16th, during the pre-game show for the Twins, Dr. Flaten and five of his ballooning students launched the balloon, carrying the signed ball, as well as a GoPro camera and the traditional tracking and data recording equipment.