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Joseph Maydell’s Excellent Space Balloon Adventure

From here, to space, to…you won’t believe it

When airport security in Houston inadvertently damaged the antenna for his high altitude balloon on the way to speak and run an Adventure at TEDxBeaconStreet, Joseph Maydell thought that would be the most challenging moment of the weekend. Working at Mission Control for the International Space Station (making sure the astronauts have power for the all-important solar arrays) is a challenging job requiring quick thinking and contingency planning. That surely prepared Joseph for the events to come.

On Friday night, Joseph arrived in Boston and set to work to repair the antenna. He craftily made use of alternate equipment and the balloon was now in working order and ready to take flight the next morning at TEDxBeaconStreet from the Lincoln School in Brookline. Joseph had finally drifted off to sleep when he received a call from Boston’s Logan International Airport. The news was not good.

“Mr. Maydell,” the official sounding voice asked, belying the hour of 2 AM. “There is a problem with your scheduled balloon launch.” The issue? There was a 1% chance it will get in the way of a landing plane.

“Seriously,” he thought. “Could this get more difficult?”

Unfazed and with a smile and a laugh Joseph gave a great talk the next morning at TEDxBeaconStreet and then, this Floridian/now Houstonian, drove out to Western Massachusetts, where the airspace was clear of airliners, and released the 30-foot helium balloon…from Springfield.

The balloon carried its payload over 100,000 feet (20 miles) above the earth, taking video the whole time and capturing the curvature of the earth.  As it rose, the balloon reached the size of a 4 story building, with a 30 foot diameter.

The balloon then began its return to Earth and that is when Joseph realized that the primary GPS locator had malfunctioned. Fortunately, his NASA training in full gear,  Joseph was able to activate the backup GPS locator and then follow the equipment to where it landed…in Belchertown.

And when he got there he found the balloon and its precious video payload stuck in a tree.  He tried to climb it.  But couldn’t. It was seventy three feet up.

The fire department came. Their ladder was too short.

The police tried.  No luck.

They thought of going all “Robin hood” and using a bow to get it down.

“Seriously?” Joseph surely asked himself, many times.

The next day a certified arborist climbed the tree and retrieved the priceless video footage from space.

Joseph not only put his ideas into action, he also sent them into space and followed them up a seventy-three-foot tree.

But it was all worth it…Joseph’s video will let you experience this TEDxBeaconStreet Adventure into space.  Thank you Joseph!