Art

This Aussie teenager sent a weather balloon 21,000 metres into space with a camera attached

Beaconhills College student, Bryce Peatling, recently used a weather balloon to send a camera into the deepest outreach of space. 21,000 metres up, no less. The photos he took with it were extraordinary.

We interviewed Bryce about this impressive art project.

How on Earth did you send a weather balloon so far into space?

“In order to send the weather balloon 21,000 metres into ‘near-space’, I first had to calculate all of the dimensions and the weight of the equipment it would be lifting. I then had to use these values to ensure that I filled the balloon with the correct amount of helium so that it could reach such a high altitude.

“I was actually hoping for it to reach around 23,000 metres, but I ended up putting too much helium in the balloon, which means it bursts sooner because of the increased expansion.

“I also had to get in contact with CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) and make sure I had all of the appropriate permissions for the launch.”

Why did you do it and were you surprised by the interest in the project?

“The reason I decided to create my piece is because I really wanted to challenge the expectations that are placed on young artists and students when it comes to creating things. I believe that the schooling system, at least here in Victoria, can be somewhat rudimentary at times and I think that creating a project like mine allowed me to escape the tedious processes associated with school because of its far-fetched nature.

“I also wanted to show people that there are many ways to succeed as a student, even if it means taking incredible risks.

“Most of, if not all of, my inspiration was sourced from the Internet and websites like YouTube. I am still blown away by the reception of my piece. I honestly could never have imagined that it would’ve gained so much traction from the media.

“However, I initially did have some very high goals for my work that I am still yet to achieve, so hopefully there will be some more good news coming my way eventually. But if not, I am incredibly grateful and appreciative for all of the opportunities that have come my way thus far.”

What were the major technological hurdles?

“The technological hurdles involved many different variables that could have destroyed my entire project. The weather was a major concern because all of the equipment needed to be waterproofed as well as heated to ensure that the electronics didn’t cease up. It reached -72 degrees Celcius!

“I used a lot of blu-tack, tape and hand-warmers to avoid these problems. There was also the issue regarding the helium. Tracking the balloon was also extremely difficult. I needed to create a gimbal for one of the tracking devices as it has to always be facing upright to gain signal – I used PVC and some screws for that.

“Other than that, I just had to test everything and make sure it all worked on the launch day.”