Who can take part?MARSBalloon 2013 launch day

The project is open to all UK schools with no restriction on student age. Registration should be made by a member of the school staff who represents a school class or club. You can find out all rules and other information in the MARSBalloon teachers pack.

What are the costs?

There is no cost to register and take part in a flight. However the expense of all experiment materials and the cost of posting to the launch team must be covered by the school. The cost of returning the experiments to schools after flight will not need to be covered by the school.

Can I reserve a place for my school?

Experiment flight opportunities will be allocated in the order that classes are registered. If you are one of the first 100 classes/clubs to register then you are guaranteed the flight of at least one experiment. We currently have one launch planned in June 2015, flying 100 experiments, and so if you miss out we can reserve you a slot for flights in 2016.

How many experiments can we make?

A maximum of three from each registered school class or club will be flown, but if the launches are oversubscribed we unfortunately may need to reduce this down to a minimum of one. There is no limit to the number of class/clubs that can register from each school but each should be individually registered by a different member of staff to enable us to track everything properly.

Who is doing this? Why?

This project is being run by young Space engineers from the Bristol division of Thales Alenia Space UK and is sponsored by our parent company Thales UK. We are doing this to show how fun and diverse careers in space engineering and science (and other STEM subjects) can be to meet the government’s goal of quadrupling the size of the UK Space industry by 2030. This means we are going to need 70,000 new space engineers, operators and scientists in the next 15 years to continue the vital work that Space and satellites do for our world [1].

What happens if you lose the balloon?

High altitude ballooning, like spaceflight, will always have an element of risk and it is possible that we will not be able to recover the balloon and/or all of the experiments. Therefore we can offer no compensation for the loss of any experiment. The launch team has previously launched five balloons of this type and all have been recovered (although one did take several months to find), we have built upon this experience and now have a tracking system which can find the balloon’s landing site in three independent ways that we are confident will give a very high chance of recovery.

Will the experiments actually go into space?

No, they will travel to 30km altitude and the official definition of border between Earth’s atmosphere and Space is 100km. However 30km is still extremely high; the peak of Everest is nearly 9km and even Concorde could only reach  a maximum of 18km. Whilst it isn’t Space, 30km is important because the average temperatures of -50°C, pressures of 10mBar (1/100th of Earth’s sea level) and increased radiation are almost identical to the surface of Mars; making it an ideal testing ground for the technology needed for future Mars exploration.

Is there an on-board data logging system the experiments can use?

Yes. This is an experimental feature but we can offer a limited number of data logging slots to schools that request it. The arduino based system records analog voltages within the range of 0 to +5V with a maximum resolution of 4.9mV at a rate of 1Hz (one sample per second). The complete, raw data log will be provided to you within one week after the recovery of the experiments. We need you to supply your experiment with two 40cm long wires (one that carries the voltage to be logged, the other carrying a reference ground) to ensure it can be placed anywhere on our experiment tray. Experimenters should make sure that negative voltages and voltages >5.5V are not sent to our logger as they could damage it! Unfortunately we cannot supply your experiment with power as we need it for our tracking system. If you would like to use this system, or have questions over its use, please contact us after registering for a flight.

Can students attend the launch?

We would be happy to allow this but due to the unpredictable nature of UK weather we cannot predict the exact time or day of launch and because of this it will likely be during a weekend. From experience this makes organising a long distance school trip to see the launch extremely difficult and likely to end in disappointment. However if your school is near the Mendips Hills, Somerset (our launch site) then attendance at the launch of supervised students who accept that there may be short notification time can be accommodated, please contact us if you wish to do this.

Can students use this project for CREST awards or other competitions?

Absolutely, we think that the length and difficulty of the project can be suitable for a discovery, bronze or even silver level CREST award or enter into the national science+engineering competition. You can also talk to your local CREST coordinator or request local STEM ambassadors to act as mentors.

Can I feature material from this website on my page?

Yes, we are happy for schools or press to use our content (images, videos, careers advice, etc) freely as long as it is attributed to MARSBalloon and that there is a link to www.marsballoon.com somewhere on your page.

[1] Space Innovation and Growth Strategy 2014-2030 Space Growth Action Plan

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