Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/04/16/pi_mission/
Raspberry Pi space jaunt ends in dramatic mountain rescue
Slovakian team tracks stunning globes to snow-capped peak
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...
Pretty in pink: Anthony Stirk (in foreground), Dave Akerman and Eben Upton
...and balloon wrangling duty:
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 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.
Up, up and away: Image from the Paspberry Pi camera
Among the snaps was this attractive "solar raspberry"...
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 before contact was lost
HAB fans stalk gorgeous globes
Armchair HAB aficionados were able to follow the two globes' progress online, although Anthony suffered intermittent transmission problems which led him to conclude late on Saturday night that his payload had been lost.
PIE and AVA invade Europe
On Sunday morning, though, AVA was back on the air over the Czech Republic, just before balloon burst and a landing on an Austrian mountain, right here.
Cue an audacious rescue mission by Brano Janicek, Juraj Marsalik, Radim Mutina and Peter Vittek - a group of Slovakian HAB enthusiasts from stsproject.net, who assembled their kit...
The Slovakian recovery team prepares for the ascent
...and assaulted the slopes of Arabichi:
The team sets off in search of AVA
The mission ended in complete success when they found the remains of the balloon...
...and AVA, still smiling:
Peter Vittek, Radim Mutina and Juraj Marsalik pose with AVA.
Pic: Brano Janicek
Peter Vittek and AVA
Dave's Pi payload, meanwhile, decided not to follow its projected course towards Poland, and hung a right to transverse Switzerland, before probably coming down in France on Sunday morning.
It's possible he may get PIE back, if locals bearing flaming torches and pitchforks don't take exception to its unnatural pinkness.