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Raspberry Pi space jaunt ends in dramatic mountain rescue

Slovakian team tracks stunning globes to snow-capped peak

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Blighty's two-pronged High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) assault on Europe over the weekend ended dramatically with the rescue of one payload from the slopes of a snow-capped Austrian mountain, while the other is officially AWOL somewhere in France.

Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team members Dave Akerman and Anthony Stirk launched two mighty orbs - PIE and AVA - on Saturday from Cambridgeshire. Dave's carried a Raspberry Pi camera set-up, rigged to beam back live Slow Scan Digital Video (SSDV) pics, while Anthony's AVA packed a 70cm tracker and APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) unit.

The "floater" balloons were deliberately underfilled with hydrogen, so they'd soar to altitude without bursting, and maintain height as they drifted with the wind.

Agreeably, Raspberry Pi Foundation co-founder Eben Upton was on hand to lend a hand with the team's trademark pink gaffer tape...

Anthony Stirk, Dave Akerman and Eben Upton

Pretty in pink: Anthony Stirk (in foreground), Dave Akerman and Eben Upton

...and balloon wrangling duty:

Dave Akerman and Eben Upton with the two balloons

Dave Akerman (left) and Eben Upton

As you'd expect from the architect of LOHAN's Special Project Electronic Altitude Release System (SPEARS) control board, Anthony's payload featured some quality artwork, presumably designed to convey a "we come in peace" message to any unsuspecting European who stumbled across AVA:

Anthony Stirk's AVA payload attached to the balloon

Anthony wrestles with AVA

In the event, AVA nearly didn't travel further than 500m, narrowly clearing trees at the launch site before deciding to play ball and soar heavenwards. Dave's balloon took off without incident, and the PiCam was soon beaming back images from aloft.

Image of clouds from the Pi camera

Up, up and away: Image from the Paspberry Pi camera

Among the snaps was this attractive "solar raspberry"...

Lens flare captured as the Pi camera snaps the Sun

Solar raspberry: A fetching snap from the PiCam

...although many of the images were the inky blackness of the European night, as the balloon travelled eastwards. The last signal, before the PiCam went off-radar, was this tantalising glimpse of the approaching dawn:

Glimpse of dawn from the Pi camera

Glimpse of dawn before contact was lost

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