Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/03/paris_photos/

PARIS laid bare in intimate snaps

Our space plane mission's bumper photo album

By Lester Haines

Posted in SPB, 3rd November 2010 15:29 GMT

We thought those of you who've been loyally following our "appallingly successful" Paper Aircraft Released Into Space project might enjoy a few behind-the-scenes views of our crack team and local Spanish support operatives as the historic attempt unfolded. For those of you seeking hires copies on Flickr, or video from YouTube, skip to the last page of this article and scroll down to the bottom for copious resources.

Before PARIS opens the family album, though, it's only right and proper that we offer a round of applause for all those people without who we'd never have got off the ground.

So, please step forward (in no particular order): telescope man Alejandro Díaz; José María Pita, who offered wine and Spanish press releases; my son Rui (aka Rui Uno), who agreed to put on a dress in honour of Paris Hilton; Rui Luz (aka Rui Dos), provider of victuals to hungry donkeys when their owner was away staring into a hypobaric chamber; Tim D'Oyly and Chas Taylor, operators of said chamber down at QinetiQ, whose enthusiasm and support was vital; Tito and Yolanda of Bar Tito, Navatejares, suppliers of essential beery goodness; expert balloon handler Jose Manuel Gomez Paris; Federico Buenadicha, who not only agreed to tackle the Vulture 1 CAD, but proved a vital member of the pursuit team; Heikki Hannikainen of aprs.fi, and Bluetree Services, who both allowed our backroom boys to slurp their data feeds; and our Reg colleagues Cade Metz, Phil "Phillipe" Mitchell and Lewis Page, the remote support team, in various capacities.

And, of course, we salute our illustrious sponsors, Peer 1 Hosting.

So, let's have a look at some snaps. We'll kick off with Steve Daniels, me, Tito and John Oates posing outside our man's bar in the command central village of Navatejares:

Steve, Lester and John with Tito and the Vulture 1

Tito was a bit taken with the Vulture 1, as was local old boy Guillermo, who never misses a chance to sidle into the frame:

Tito and Guillermo with the Vulture 1

The bar regulars, too, were only too happy to pose for the family album:

The Bar Tito regulars with the Vulture 1

Our nerve centre was within easy staggering distance of Bar Tito, in La Quinta del Chocolatero, where Steve Daniels and John Oates took the opportunity to pose with vital mission components:

Steve and John at mission headquarters

As the following two pics show, inside was a well-ordered, highly-disciplined set-up, in which any available horizontal surface was commandeered for the greater good:

John Oates at mission headquarters

Steve Daniels at mission headquarters

Yes, you've guessed it: our radio man has temporarily mislaid the bottle opener, as his expression shows.

Additional PARIS resources

Outside, we had plenty of sheltered space to set up the Vulture 1 and main payload:

The Vulture 1 mounted under the main payload box

The Vulture 1 nose with pilot ready to roll

Here's John tackling the main payload lines...

John Oates tackles the main payload lines

...and Steve with them just about tamed:

Steve Daniels with the main payload

By the time we even got close to a launch, the main payload box had earned itself an airing in local paper El Diario de Avila, with my son doing the honours on the hoisting:

Article about PARIS in the Diario de Avila

When we did finally haul the box and Vulture 1 up to the launch site, we had to scrub due to high winds, although (from left to right) Alejandro Díaz, José María Pita, Steve Daniels, John Oates and Jose Manuel Gomez Paris took the opportunity to officially christen the aircraft...

The Vulture 1 baptism team at the launch site

...an event which soon appeared in El Diario de Avila:

The PARIS team in the Diario de Avila

By 28 October, it was all or nothing, so we schlepped back up to the launch site for an early-morning start.

John and Steve at the launch site

José María and Jose Manuel were on hand to tackle the helium bottle...

Jose Manuel and Jose Maria tackle the helium bottle

...which had already had some tasty coverage on the interwebs in this fetching image:

Our glamorous assistant poses with the helium bottle

I'm sure the parents out there will agree that if you ever get your teenage son in a sequin dress, you've got to make the most of it.

Returning swiftly to the job in hand, here's John Oates attaching the main payload to the parachute:

John Oates attaching the main payload to the parachute

He then turned his attention to the balloon, with the help of Federico Buenadicha and Jose Manuel:

Federico, John and Jose Manuel attach the helium fill tube to the balloon

Securing the filling hose to the balloon proved a mite troublesome...

Fixing the helium fill nozzle

...but these boys are top professionals, and soon had it under control:

The balloon begins to fill

Note the bottle of water, tied to the balloon neck. When this 7.5kg lump began to lift off the ground, we knew we were good to go.

After about 20 minutes, we could happily leave John and Jose Manuel to continue with their lightweight task:

John and Jose Manuel happily filling the balloon

Here's a view of the entire scene...

The PARIS launch

...as me and Steve tape down the main payload electronics:

Lester and Steve with the main payload

Having fired up the cameras and trackers, and thrown some chemical handwarmers into the main payload camera compartment, we sealed the lid:

The main payload box good to go

In case you're wondering what our Playmonaut was thinking at this point, he seemed happy enough:

The Vulture 1 mounted for the launch

It took about 40 minutes to fill the balloon...

Checking the balloon lift against the water bottle

...at which point we could tie of the nozzle and attach the balloon to the 'chute and payload:

John ties off the balloon nozzle

Then, we very carefully began to let the balloon rise while holding the main payload...

Letting the balloon out while holding the main payload

...until the whole show was ready to roll:

The balloon at the point of release

And here it is rolling, caught on camera by Federico...

The balloon and payload just after lift-off

...at the very moment the main payload video camera caught him in a ground-to-air-to-ground surveillance feedback loop:

Federico caught on the main payload video camera

You've probably seen it already, but the launch vid is worth another look:

The video camera also captured the team on the ground, as the Vulture soared skywards:

The team and cars seen from the video camera

About two hours later, and some considerable distance east, the pursuit team of myself, John, Steve and Federico stopped off for vital sandwich-based nourishment:

John and Federico sort out the sandwiches

No sarnies for Steve, though, since he was busy fondling his antenna:

Steve on the antenna

We were getting a good signal from the main payload transmitter, but nothing from the Vulture 1, so we moved in on the former. This was as close as we could get in the pursuit vehicle:

As close as we can get to the main payload

John took the chance to throw out a few tweets...

John on the laptop

...before we hit the woods in search of PARIS's box:

The team set off into the woods

Our first glimpse proved the value of the fluorescent panels...

The first sight of the main payload

...and within 15 minutes of leaving the van, we were triumphant:

The recovery team with the main payload

Now we just had the small matter of recovering the Vulture 1. Steve thought he'd heard a couple of blips from its onboard transmitter, which mean it was close and, according to John "in this direction":

Ready to set off in search of the Vulture 1

He was right, too, because within an hour we had the aircraft GPS locked and were once again on foot in hot pursuit:

The dirt road to the Vulture 1 landing site

Every project should have its defining moment. This was ours:

The Vulture 1 in the woods

We couldn't really believe the Vulture 1 had suffered so little damage...

The Vulture 1 landed in the woods

...and as you can imagine, as the bloke who made the thing, I was pretty chuffed:

The author with the recovered Vulture 1

We'll wrap this piece with the photo we'd already dreamed about but didn't really think possible: the PARIS team with the Vulture 1 following its epic flight...

Steve, John and Lester with the Vulture 1

On Friday, we'll have a meaty aerial image round-up for your viewing pleasure. In the meantime, here's the vista enjoyed by our heroic Playmonaut:

The edge of space, as seen from the video camera

Bootnote

The Diario de Avila did one last piece on PARIS, but went to press before we could get them some recovery pics. Headline reads: "And it finally flew...". Click on the pic for a bigger version.

Additional PARIS resources