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Project HALO 2020

Project HALO 2020

Author: Geoffrey Andrews
A new team of students is hard at work designing an ambitious scientific payload for the stratosphere.

For the past six weeks, a new cohort of students has been hard at work on Project HALO's second stratospheric balloon payload. After a successful first year, the program's funding was renewed by Purdue's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Indiana Space Grant Consortium, providing the opportunity to build on the successes of our inaugural balloon launch by learning from its failures.

This year's crop of students comes from the same three Lafayette-area high schools: Harrison, McCutcheon, and West Lafayette. One of last year's team members has rejoined for a second year; three who have graduated and become Purdue freshmen are acting as peer mentors. Thus far, Project HALO 2020 has been much more measured and well-paced than the frantic dash of last year. Part of this is due no doubt to the need to do all of our meetings virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic; another part is simply due to a more flexible timeline, without the pressure of trying to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a moon landing. Amazingly, six weeks into last year's project, we were already done; this year, six weeks has provided ample time for the team to thoroughly study its options for mission and vehicle design.

The mission plan is to carry out three experiments - (1) collection of bacteria from the stratosphere; (2) measurement of the radiation profile of the atmosphere using a Geiger counter; and (3) detection of cosmic rays using film plates. A three-part mission is ambitious, but the students and mentors have been hard at work analyzing their design options and digging into the details. With plenty of time to go until our notional launch date in October, spirits are high!