Sixth Anniversary of BTS-1
- Category: Balloons
- Written by Blake Raab (N4BWR)
On May 8, 2011 at 11:08 local Houston time, a weather balloon lifted off into the sunny Texas sky. Because of some unexpected extra weight, it struggled a little as it crossed into the stratosphere.
Soon, it entered the jet stream, where it traveled at speeds up to 130 miles per hour. As it made its way across the state, the intrepid crew of this weather balloon received a very special tweet:
Yes, astronaut Ron Garan, who was on the International Space Station flying over Houston at the time, said hello. This was no ordinary crew. They were Camilla SDO, a rubber chicken; Fuzz Aldrin, a teddy bear; and Skye Bleu, a stuffed flying pig. They were emissaries of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, Bears on Patrol, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, respectively. This crew and this mission were closely being followed by thousands of people on Facebook and Twitter. Things were about to get much more interesting.
Because of the extra weight, and the strong jet stream, the balloon was carried quite a distance. When it finally came to rest, it was in a Louisiana swamp where it spent the next five days. You can read more details about that here. We set up a guestbook for people to leave notes for the crew. Many people signed it, including a flight director for the International Space Station, as well as a representative of the European Space Agency!
The crew was finally rescued five days later by an employee of the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries (Thanks, Goose!) with an airboat. The drama was not quite over. When the capsule and crew were shipped back home, FedEx lost the package, but it was finally found a week later.
And that's the story of BTS-1, a wild adventure and "successful failure" just like Apollo 13...but with more fur and rubber.