All Systems Go at Cape Callanan Weather Balloon Launch

Science Bound students at Callanan Middle School prepare to launch a weather balloon.

Science Bound students at Callanan Middle School prepare to launch a weather balloon.

There are school science projects and there are school science projects. And then there is the space program at Callanan Middle School.

Wednesday morning, after first calling ahead to the FAA per protocol, Science Bound teacher Anson Bonte and his crew of Cougars launched the school’s third weather balloon in 18 months, an occasion that always makes for a unique sort of all-school assembly out back on the Cape Callanan Launchpad.

Once again the DMPS GoPro camera was on-board in hopes of capturing more breathtaking footage like that recorded when Cougar II rose to the edge of outer space last May. That mission ended with a pop at an altitude of 90,000 feet and a plummet back to Earth in a rural Iowa farmyard after a two and a half hour flight.

Bonte and his intrepid explorers decided to go for a December launch this time so they can parlay the data they’ll get from the equipment the balloon carried with it into a project for the annual DMPS science fair later this winter.

It’s tougher calibrating the instruments in the data box and fueling the balloon with helium when your fingers are stiffened by temps in the teens but the launch went off right on schedule shortly after 9:00 AM.

For a moment the colorless orb that looked so large when it was earth-bound resembled a tailed moon while dragging its cargo aloft. Another moment later it was nothing more than a small dot of punctuation in a bright, cold sky. And then it was gone.

Lots of students from all over the district will be going to great lengths for their projects. The Callanan cohort is going to great heights.

This unique science lesson was part of the Science Bound program, a partnership between DMPS and Iowa State University’s pre-college program that aims increase the number of ethnically diverse Iowa students who pursue college degrees in agricultural, scientific, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program draws students with potential from middle and high schools in Des Moines, Denison and Marshalltown.

Photos from the Callanan Weather Balloon Launch

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