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Photo Release -- High School Astrophysics Students Launch Space Balloon to Altitude of 75,000 Feet to Collect Atmospheric Data

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Bay School Ikaros Balloon Project

Bay School Ikaros Balloon Project

The Bay School of San Francisco weather balloon project

SAN FRANCISCO, May 28, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- On May 22, 2010, students from The Bay School of San Francisco launched an 8-foot diameter helium balloon, carrying a payload that included a video camera, temperature and pressure sensors, and tracking equipment to "the edge of space." The flight lasted 1 hour, 20 minutes and the payload travelled 85 miles. The balloon reached an altitude of 75,000 feet before bursting, twice as high as commercial airliners fly, and above 95% of the earth's atmosphere by mass.

A photo accompanying this release is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=7542

Led by astrophysics instructor, Richard Piccioni, and research instructor Craig Butz, the students spent a week in March designing and building the probe, dubbed Ikaros I, as part of the school's annual Intersession Program, a week of hands-on, experience-based classes that are a central part of the Bay School's forward-looking college preparatory curriculum.
 
After several additional meetings to complete the craft, the team traveled to Carmel-by-the-Sea for a noon launch. After inflating and releasing the balloon, they tracked the payload's GPS location sent by an Automated Packet Reporting System transmitter and a cell phone programmed to report its location through mobile internet.
 
As the vehicle flew over Pinnacles National Monument, the group followed it from Carmel River State Beach to the Central Valley and located the balloon on a hillside along an uninhabited stretch of I-5 south of Mendota.
 
During the flight, the payload got a taste of the harsh conditions beyond the protection of the Earth's atmosphere. Temperatures dropped as low as 50 degrees below zero and atmospheric pressure was 5% of what it is at sea level.
 
In the coming weeks, the students will be analyzing the data about temperature, pressure, and atmospheric composition they retrieved, posting a video of the mission online, and discussing goals for Ikaros II.
 
The Bay School of San Francisco, founded in 2004, is located in the Presidio of San Francisco, and offers a rigorous college preparatory program designed to prepare students for lives of leadership and engagement in the rapidly changing, global world of the 21st century. All Bay School students are required to complete a minimum of 4 science courses to graduate. In addition to the core physics, biology, and chemistry classes, the curriculum offers an extensive selection of upper-level science electives including: Astrophysics I and II, Bioethics, Brain and Mind, Field Biology, Genetics and Biotechnology, Hydrology, Geology of the Western United States, and the popular SF Bay level I and II courses in which students investigate the waters of San Francisco Bay and surrounding region from a biological standpoint.

The Bay School of San Francisco logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=7541

Students involved in the Ikaros I project are:
 
Flight day:
Robin Cassatt-Johnstone
Sam Green
Jesse Greenfield
Meyer Jacobs
Greg Karp-Neufeld
Lucas Peck
 
Design and construction:
Willie Caldwell
Ben Gershbein
Ian Matthews
Tom Mitchel
Daniel Stuff
Noah Tuchow.

The photo is also available at Newscom, www.newscom.com, and via AP PhotoExpress. 

The Bay School of San Francisco
Pamela Snellgrove, Director of Communications
415 561-5800, ext 103

www.bayschoolsf.org