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The ASCEND team’s balloon and payload reached the stratosphere, which lies between 33,000 and 160,000 feet, and sent back data and stunning video. The stratosphere is just above the troposphere, which starts at the Earth’s surface, and it contains the vital ozone layer that shields us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

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“It was hard to contain our excitement once we finally got our payload back and watched the ethereal footage from near space,” Phaklides said. “Surely, there are hundreds of these balloon videos out there, but this one was ours — the result of months of work — and that made it more worthwhile.” Previous groups have used high-altitude balloon payloads to conduct research on solar panels, neutral buoyancy and even solar eclipses. “The ideas behind the ASCEND projects are usually simple in concept,” said Dr. Douglas Isenberg, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and the team’s former co-mentor. “However, it is the reality that nothing is ever built to infinite precision, and this tends to make simple things a lot more difficult.”

ASCEND’s future brings together new team members, new faculty mentor Dr. Yabin Liao and new research. Their goal is to build on the team’s prior success and refine the ground-based system to gather more data from their payload while once again ascending to the stratosphere. “That’s true engineering,” said Isenberg. “The ASCEND program has served as a fantastic platform for students to get this experience.”

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Scan here to take the 100,000 -foot journey into the stratosphere aboard the ASCEND payload.

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Artwork: Bella Memeo ’24

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