Eventually everything finds its way home.
A little over a week ago I got a call from a rancher in Nevada. They had found some gear in the desert with our name on it. It was a couple of cameras and batteries. I could not figure out what it was. The site was about 100 miles away from the long lost Away 6 mission. They dropped it all in a box and a few days later it was here.
In the box was a camcorder, a digital still camera, a custom battery pack and a small board with a basic stamp on it. It has our stickers on it, but it still didn’t make any sense. Away 6 had film cameras not digital. The only two unaccounted for vehicles were the stolen Away 34 and the Mesospheric Explorer. However, the equipment didn’t match either vehicle. Also was the problem of where was the rest of it. There were no decks, carbon poles or other structure, just some very weathered squares of foam core.
I pulled the memory card out of the camera and dumped it to my laptop. 940 identical images of a tree, bush and patch of desert. It appears that the camera reset on impact. Turning to the camcorder I popped in a new battery and pressed the eject. The tape ejected like it was new. I dropped it into a newer camcorder and rewound and pressed play.
Away 22, Ascender propeller test.
This was a very successful mission that had a bit of an adventure on landing. It was carried aloft by six balloon. It descended for a “soft” landing riding three balloons down. We tracked it all the way to touchdown. It landed hard on a ridge. When we got to the landing site, the propeller and motor were there, but the rest of the vehicle was gone. Without the weight of the motor and prop it had taken off again. Only this time with a dead telemetry system.
Away 22 was found a few days later by a power line crew in a very remote area two hundred miles away from the original landing site. Everything was there except the camera and camcorder. I’ve always thought the line crew kept them, they were innocent after all. The impact on the ridge had popped the lids of the insulated boxes open. Between the first and second landing sites the vehicle tipped open and dumped the cameras in the desert.
Unfortunately the tape only shows to about 70,000 feet. The testing was at 80,000 feet. All the flight and test data is still just from the transmitted data and video. There are still some great scenes though. While Away 22 was climbing we spun up the prop a few rotations every few through feet. This was just keep the motor from freezing up. I’ll have a highlights video up in a couple of days. For now here’s some stills off the video.
From Away 22 on board video