Three, two, one!

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

About 150 children released balloons with tracking information into the air Wednesday morning.

Children’s camp focuses on wind, weather and space

About a hundred and fifty children sat on the lawn at the Troy Parks and Recreation Department Wednesday morning and shouted along with a countdown.

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, launch!”

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With that command, a near space balloon floated up into the sky while the children cheered.

The balloon launch, made possible by local sponsors and a grant, was part of a summer camp at the Parks and Recreation Department.

The 1,200-gram balloon was equipped with a parachute, two HD video cameras and a GPS tracking device so the cameras can be found after falling back to Earth.

“When it reaches the highest point, it will show the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space,” said Dan Smith, Troy Parks and Recreation director. “When it falls back down, it should do so within 60 miles of the launch spot, which is pretty incredible.”

The weather balloon was expected to rise 90,000 to 115,000 feet above the ground, at that point, it should expand to the size of a small house before bursting and heading back to Earth.

As part of a grant from NASA, Pike County 4-H Regional Extension Agent Rachel Snoddy taught the children at the camp about some of the science behind the balloon and what they could expect to see when it returned to the ground.

“Some of them wanted to know if it would go all the way to California,” Snoddy laughed. “They were really interested in how the balloon worked.”

In addition to the weather balloon launch, the children also launched individual helium balloons that were three times thicker and stronger than normal balloons. Attached to each was the child’s first name, along with the Parks and Recreation email address with instructions to write in and let the children know how far the balloon traveled and who found it.

Smith said the project was a creative and fun way to get children thinking about science, weather, wind and space.

Morgan Sanders, 8, said he didn’t have any predictions about where his balloon would land, but he really hopes someone finds it and writes him. He said he thinks the video from the weather balloon will show how trees and buildings look really small from the air.

Brady Singleton, 8, was interested in taking a flight to space, himself.

“Somebody give me an astronaut suit and let me hang on,” Singleton said from the sidelines.

Singleton said he thought the weather balloon might end up in New York.

“It’s going to show us space. It’s going to show us what it’s like above the clouds. It’s going to show us a lot of things,” Singleton said. “I can’t wait.”

Malachi Everett, 8, said he hoped his balloon landed somewhere where someone could find it and write him. But he had even bigger hopes for the weather balloon.

“I think I will see planets,” Everett said. “I wish we will be able to see planets.”

The Parks and Recreation Department hopes to recover the cameras Thursday.

in Troy, Ala., Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

Michael McLendon, Douglas McLendon, Doug McLendon and Dan Smith prepare a weather balloon for launch.