I recently launched a low-tech weather balloon into the stratosphere, retrieving rare video of footage of a minion in space. Yes, the same minion from Despicable Me, and the upcoming feature film Minions. We’ll get back to that.
I have no history nor experience with the space industry. 10 years in the wedding industry and not one of them had anything to do with weather balloon launches. It’s a wonder I even got it off the ground.
Launch day was June 2, 2015 from Halls Gap in the Grampians, Western VIC at 9am, a little past breakfast. As the balloon ascended far above the earth, I tracked it in real time via GPS using a luggage locator.
I received a lot of support from my friends. They thought I was crazy. But crazy pushes boundaries, and I think that’s healthy. How else do we get things like iPhones, electric cars and cronuts?
When the balloon got up to 33000 meters it finally burst and came hurtling back to Earth.
It’s just freefalling like a meteor at this point but eventually the parachute takes over and it slows down to about 5 meters per second.
The balloon rig itself was put together from scrap materials: a discarded polystyrene wine cooler, fluoro builders line, bits of balsa wood, tape and some bubble wrap.
Bubble wrap is miraculous stuff. Not only does it protect the electronics inside, it insulates them too. It has to endure freezing temperatures of -50 Celsius. That’s almost as cold as Russia!
The video that came back from maximum altitude looks incredible! Out of this world.
You don’t realise how delicate the atmosphere is until you see it from above. Next to nothing separates us from the empty vastness of space. We have no choice but to look after this planet. It’s the only one we’ve got. All we have is each other.
Which brings us to why a minion was seen floating in space:
As fascinating as capturing video footage of space is, it doesn’t engage people. You need to tell a story. Make people laugh. Originally I planned to send up a bride and groom cake topper, but at the last minute swapped it for my sister’s minion toy.
Add on some wedding rings to have something at stake (they came back safely didn't they?) and you got yourself an adventure!
When it came time to recover the balloon it was predicted to land 90 kms away in Central Victoria. It landed safely in Red Lion, VIC. The balloon, and Kevin the minion, was found lying in a field of slightly amused cows.
I'm considering doing more launches in the future. I apologise for the amateur iMovie trailer. And this 6 second vine clip:
I’m not a skilled man.