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24 October, 2003

Wyoming Balloons

Today we had nonstop snow all day. The helicopter operations were shut down, and the first plane to the South Pole was delayed. The town is full of green coated "Polies" walking around without anything to do.

Before I arrived in Antarctica, I had to learn about the process of ballooning, so I went to the University of Wyoming in Laramie. This is a wonderful University, and one of the best bargains for education that I have seen. It is cheaper to go to this campus as an out of state resident then it is to go in state where I live.

While I was there I had a chance to parcticipate in a rather large balloon launch with a heavy payload. With instruments this big you are required to contact air traffic control before you launch. I spent two weeks learning and on the last day we finally had good conditions for a launch. Unfortunately, the calm winds suddenly turned direction and caught the balloon face on. The balloon tore despite the efforts of everyone to keep it upright. It was a great disappointment and an expensive learning experience. Afterwards, everyone gathered the deflated balloon and began to inhale helium, and this made everyone's voice squeaky because the speed of sound is different in helium as compared to air. Which is faster?

I attach pictures from Wyoming today.

You need a truck to haul a balloon this size. And a lot of people to help.

And you need a lot of helium! This old army truck is loaded with several helium tanks.

Several people are needed to hold onto the balloon, it has a tremendous lift force.

Inflating the balloon.

The Inflated Balloon with a Wyoming Sunset

Another view of the balloon.

A gust of wind caught the balloon and tore it quickly. Most of the helium escaped, but some was left and made for many squeaky voices.

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