Every inventor and visionary starts off with a wild dream. Crazy dreams like going to the moon and beyond, exploring the depths of the oceans or flying in the sky have led human race towards making ground breaking discoveries; and these dreams have revolutionized the world forever. A young 7-year-old Nathan had a similar crazy dream, and that was to launch a golf ball into the outer-space by striking it with his club!
Okay the idea was a bit far fetched to be achieved merely by his club. So he put his engineering ingenuity to the test and attached the golf ball to a weather balloon which then took it into the stratosphere. The gold ball with the help of the balloon reached an altitude of 95,500 feet / 18.1 miles / 29.1 km, which is the world’s longest (assisted) golf shot.
To achieve this feat, it took Nathan and his brother Joey Switzer a whole lot of calculations. They had to precisely calculate the amount of helium which was required to take the balloon and the ball high enough. Precision and accuracy in the assumptions, data and calculation were of utmost importance as there are a lot of factors to cater for when looking to launch a helium balloon into the sky.
First of all, buoyancy of the balloon was to be be maximized while simultaneously taking the expansion caused by the helium into account due to the drop in the atmospheric pressure as you go up. This change in expansion can cause the balloon to pop, which can send the apparatus thwarting back towards Earth.
Other than this, the changes due to decrease in temperature was also to be taken into account, as it also changed the expansion of helium. For every 100m climbed, the temperature goes down by approximately one degree, and this can be a key factor as towards the center of the stratosphere it can drop down to -80 Deg f (-62 Deg C). This has a great impact on both the buoyancy of the balloon, and on the life of the batteries involved in keeping the balloon and the record keeping instruments within it afloat and running.
After taking all these things into account, precisely 68 cubic feet of helium was pumped into a 600g Kaymont weather balloon. This was enough to fly the balloon and the golf ball along with the 8x8x5″ Styrofoam cooler containing the camera, and tracking equipment.
The total time of flight was around 3 hours, 10 minutes, and the balloon travelled a distance of 112 miles. And it was able to touch the amazing height of 95,500 feet / 18.1 miles / 29.1 km. The real challenge was to recover the video and photos made using the GoPro Hero3, Sony Camcorder and Samsung Galaxy Note II phone aboard on the balloon basket. As per Nathan, they originally lost the footage and it was eventually found two years later by an Arizona hiker.
You can watch the amazing footage of this launch here:
While the shot was assisted, the mere concept and determination that nothing is impossible is very inspiring. And this sort of inventiveness and daring attitude is what the world requires to fight off its own problems and crisis.
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