TROY — Sierra Craig, a fifth grade student from Washington, Pa., launched a weather balloon into the stratosphere on Sunday morning from historic WACO Field as her science fair project. She chose WACO because of its flat surface; her home state’s terrain and high density of trees made tracking and recovery of the balloon unlikely.
“We were also hoping to tie some educational and historical value into the event,” said Sierra’s father, John Craig. “(WACO) appears to be well-suited for both.”
As stated on her GoFundMe page, the purpose of Sierra’s experiment was to study the effect of altitude on pressure and temperature using a weather balloon and sensor payload. Her goal was to send a small sensor package 100,000 feet into space — into the region of the Earth’s atmosphere that NASA calls “near space.”
The weather balloon features a tracking device that uses GPS to interface with Google maps and has GoPro cameras on board.
A group of WACO Aviation Cadets were present for the launch and sat in as Sierra held a briefing on her project. The cadets also participated as ground crew for the launch in the 13-degree weather, on a bright and clear morning at WACO Field.
On her GoFundMe site, 11-year-old Sierra stated, “Last year, I won my fourth grade competition with a study on light and lasers. This year the pressure is high to succeed because each of my four older sisters won both of their fourth and fifth grade science fair competitions.”
The balloon was launched around 10:45 a.m. and was in the air for around four hours.
The payload returned to Earth somewhere near Dexter City, Ohio, an estimated distance of 178 miles from the launch site, according to Nancy Heiss-Royer, Learning Center director for WACO.
The Craig family immediately went about searching to locate the payload.
Once the payload is recovered, Sierra will begin the task of analyzing the data that was recorded during the flight.
Mike Ullery contributed to this story. He can be reached at (937) 451-3335.