Members of the Dunedin Space Programme (from left) Mitchell
Scott (12), Amadeo Enriquez-Ballestero, Jason Neal, Issac
Rijlaarsdam (14) and Lucy O'Neill (16) inspect one of the
weather balloons which the group will use to test their
equipment on before they send it 35km above Earth's
surface. Photo by Tim Miller.
Dunedin's space programme is ready to launch its first
mission to the edge of space, with the final testing of
equipment due this weekend.
A group of young space enthusiasts are conducting a test
flight of a weather balloon they hope will eventually travel
35km above Earth's surface, and take a picture of the
curvature of Earth.
After more than a year of testing and programming, the flight
could take place within the next two or three weeks if
conditions are right and the test run does not show up any
Head of the programme, Amadeo Enriquez-Ballestero, said the
aim was to get pupils excited about space and astronomy.
''It's amazing here in Dunedin. We have the [Beverly Begg]
observatory but a lot of people in Dunedin don't know what
goes on or that it is even there.''
Putting together the computer equipment had been the hardest
part of the project because of the amount of programming
which was involved, he said.
''We decided early on the kids would learn the best by doing
the programming themselves and they have really learnt a
whole lot, which is fantastic.''
There were other pitfalls which the group has had to
overcome, such as making sure the cameras did not freeze in
the sub-zero temperature, with simple hand warmers keeping
the batteries working.
The space programme started as an after-school group at
Kavanagh College but has grown to include pupils from other
schools as well.
''I started the Astronomy Club so that I could share my
passion for astronomy and science, and it has been great to
surround myself with great people that can help us make cool
things happen,'' Mr Enriquez-Ballestero said.
The weather balloon will be launched from somewhere near
Dunedin, depending on wind direction and speed, with a box
containing three cameras, and a small computer which will be
recording pressure, temperature and the balloon's location,
attached below the balloon.
Before the launch, the team will conduct a test run on the
Otago Museum lawn today making sure all the equipment works.
If the weather is favourable, they will test the weather
Because the balloon and equipment weighs less than 2kg, no
permit is needed, but they will still inform the Civil
Aviation Authority of New Zealand.
Anyone who was interested in the space programme, or the
launch, could head along to the Otago Museum lawn today from
3pm and see what the programme was about, he said.