Goodbye, Alice

This afternoon I gave my (fairly limited) input to the NASA board investigating our launch mishap.  Fulfilling that last responsibility brings my balloon campaign here in Alice Springs to a close.  Tomorrow I start my long-awaited journey home!

Obviously this was not the outcome I–we–were working so hard towards.  Nevertheless, I believe the NCT team has reason to be very proud of our efforts.  It was a huge challenge to turn around and fly again on a new continent less than a year after our New Mexico campaign.  Ingenuity, perseverance, and effective teamwork were all crucial in overcoming the obstacles we encountered.  On the way, we had help from many people who proved uniformly capable, friendly, and supportive.  The instrument we rolled out to the launch pad two weeks ago was fully prepared to do excellent science.

I am saddened, though, by the reach of the media coverage of our launch failure.  Videos of accidents have a huge visceral impact, so these images will be more viewed and remembered than those from the many successful launches CSBF conducts in the USA, Sweden, Australia, and Antarctica each year.  The impression created–that NASA ballooning is unsafe or wasteful–could not be more false.  For many types of astronomy, stratospheric balloons provide the lowest-cost, most efficient access to space, costing ten or a hundred times less than satellites which can take a decade longer to prepare.  Balloon scientists build affordable telescopes which do cutting-edge science, enriching our understanding of the universe we live in.  The CSBF personnel perform inherently challenging balloon launches with extraordinary capability, exquisite professionalism, and remarkable good humor.

I started this blog two years ago as a way to share what I was learning about stratospheric ballooning with my friends and family.  After the roller coaster of emotions these campaigns have brought, I continue to be convinced of the compelling story presented by this remarkable scientific enterprise.  It has been a privilege to share its drama, excitement, and culture with a broader audience.

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8 responses to “Goodbye, Alice

  1. Hear, hear!

    Thanks Eric!

  2. Well done, my son!

  3. Well said, Eric.

    It’s hard to compete with 30-second sound-bite sensationalist TV coverage, but what you just wrote, and this whole blog in general, have done a huge service in showing people the real value of balloon-born science. It’s all well worth the risk.

    Have a safe flight back.

  4. Well spoken. Are you sure politics aren’t in the future? Have a safe trip home.

  5. I followed your programs with great interest and agree with your sentiment regarding adverse press coverage. Unfortunately this happens as it seems that a lot of people do not appreciate the hard work and technology that goes into programs such as these. I know only too well as a retired Woomera defence employee
    as this happened only too often but the final results sometimes were spactacular.
    I have produced a limited edition of commemorative envelopes (25 ) for your two trials. I do this for my friends in the philatelic clubs and for the members of the Space Unit Topical association in the USA of which I am a member. I would like to write a story about your ballon project in Australia s I do for all of the launch projects from the Woomera test range.
    I enclose a scan of one of the envelopes with the special postmark from the Alice for your interest.
    I wrote several letters to your people but never received a reply. Good luck in the future and reply to my email if you can. James Hill in Adelaide South Australia.

  6. Have a safe flight, and I hope to see more blogging from you about prepping more projects. :)

  7. Thanks for your (and your team`s) great effort. While I share you disappointment with the OldLineMedia remember that there are a lot of people that have become aware of balloon science because of the coverage. Two edged sword and all that.

    Best of luck and hope you keep letting us know how things are going.

  8. You have my total support.
    As someone who knows a little bit of stratopheric balloning, I’d say that this discipline is almost an “ascetic” science where patience, diligence, self-denial and atmospheric chaotic phenomena co-exist…!!

    Scientific research is full of those 30-seconds-media-coverages that eventually obscure its essential meanings and discoveries.
    We’ve all been there…