In Adelaide, South Australia, a group of enthusiasts called "Project Horus" have been regularly getting together to build and fly High Altitude Balloons (HABs) that take payloads to around 35km altitude. That's three times as high as the highest commercial aircraft, and it's so high there's almost no atmosphere and the temperature is -55C. The curvature of the Earth is clearly visible, and the sky is black.
On their last flight, Horus 14, they carried a couple of special payloads. The first was outside the payload canister: a plush Tux mascot sitting on a pole!
A high-def video camera inside the payload canister captured the whole flight, and they edited the result down to an amazing 2 minute movie showing the launch, balloon burst, descent, and recovery.
The flight was a fund-raiser for the Queensland flood appeal, and after its return to Earth a poster-size print of the image above was signed by all the keynote speakers at the linux.conf.au Linux conference along with Linus Torvalds, and raised an astonishing $23,239 for the appeal!
As if that wasn't enough, the payload also included a prototype of the Freetronics MobSenDat (Mobile Sensor Datalogger) designed by Luke Weston. Equipped with GPS, a 3-axis accelerometer, barometric pressure sensor, two temperature sensors, MicroSD card, and a radio transmitter, it kept meticulous record of the details of the flight and was tracked in real time via the spacenear.us online flight tracking system.
Congratulations to Joel Stanley and Mark Jessop along with all their helpers who managed to pull off a brilliant result.
You can read more about the epic flight on the Project Horus blog at "Project Horus sends Tux to (near) space!"