Eight years back, some Japanese students attached two cameras, a smartphone, and a GPS to a weather balloon and then released it. It went high up into the sky till it could no longer be seen.
Last month, the cameras were located close to Tokyo in the woods, revealing their 32-kilometer trip into the stratosphere and the blue curve of Earth against the blackness of space.
This teens launched this balloon as part of a class project. To avoid dense settlements and airports, the students released the balloon in the town of Eiheiji, Fukui Prefecture, two prefectures to the west of Nagano. They thought the smartphone rig would find its way back to the Earth after the balloon bursts. But things did not happen this way.
At around the 1,000-meter altitude mark, the students lost the balloon’s signal, so they had no idea where it was, or would be when the balloon popped. They calculated that the smartphone may have ended up somewhere around Iimori ridge in the town of Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo. However, they could not find the apparatus, and went on to graduate thinking it was lost.
Almost exactly eight years down the road, Toshiharu Suto, with the Shinrin Smile Plan forestry project based in the Saitama Prefecture town of Ogano, was working in the woods in Tokigawa, in an area with no mobile phone signal. As he looked up at the canopy to decide which direction he should fell a tree, he noticed what looked like a parachute and a box caught in the branches about 15 meters off the ground. When he cut down the tree and retrieved the box, he found the name and contact information of the students’ teacher, Tomoyuki Fukuzawa.
On Nov. 15, Fukuzawa and the now-graduates who had released the balloon opened the box at Iida OIDE Osahime High School, which their school had merged with in the intervening eight years. They checked the video files on the cameras, and saw to their delight the blue planet and the depths of space.
Sota Shimizu, now 26 years, who headed this group of Japanese students eight years ago said
The video was captured much more clearly than I’d expected. I’m very thankful to the person who found the parachute and got in touch.Sota Shimizu