The sky is not the limit

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Photo courtesy of Bovine Aerospace: A previously launched solar balloon rises into the air. The balloon scheduled to launch this week is twice the 20-foot height of this previous attempt.

Santa’s sleigh isn’t the only thing flying through the air this holiday season. Socorroans Paul Norman, Jeff Hankins and Danny Bowman are planning to launch a homemade 40-foot tall solar powered hot air balloon from north of Socorro between Dec. 26 and 30, weather permitting.

The balloon will carry two cameras, a GPS and a satellite tracker. If all goes well, they will have photos and video, as well as valuable data on how solar balloons fly, information Bowman plans to use to design better sensors for volcanoes.

The three have a big problem though. Their balloon will fly hundreds of miles, far out of reach of a quick road trip during winter break, so they’re working with friend Jeff Eliasen to crowd-source the tracking and recovery of the payload.

“It’s a six degrees of separation type of thing,” Bowman said. “If we email all our friends and post our plan on Facebook, maybe we’ll reach someone close enough to the landing site and have them ship our instruments back to us.”

The team encourages the public to join the tracking effort.

The history of the project and upcoming launch and flight information can be found at the team’s blog http://bovineaerospace.wordpress.com/.