Update, April 24, 2013: Turns out I didn’t win. But I had fun nonetheless!
If you’d be so kind as to help a boy get a wee bit closer to realizing his dreams,
please click here — every unique click I get slightly increases the radius of my guess and makes my yearned-for spaceflight a tiny bit more likely. Thank you very kindly!
Whether I’m biking through rugged creekbeds, tires squelching in quicksand-like mud, or sailing over a foamy blue sea under an oven of a sun, I like to think of myself as an adventurer. But I admit, with no happiness, that I don’t get to race down nature’s canals as often as I like, and that the only sailing I’ve embarked upon was virtual (Wind Waker, I think, ranks as one of my favorite games largely because it’s pervaded with a sense of grand adventure). At least presently, I’m more of an adventurer-at-heart than an adventurer-in-practice. I suppose that life as a fulltime student (and soon to be fulltime intern at Google) has its set of limitations.
I’m digressing. Back to the point that I’ve yet to make — I really, really want to fly into space. KLM is holding a really neat contest, and the winner gets two tickets (worth 95 grand a pop!) into space via the Lynx spacecraft. The premise of the contest is almost as cool as the prize itself: On April 22, KLM will launch a high altitude balloon from the Nevada Desert (despite my Google searches, I can’t pinpoint its location …) up, up, up into space, and the contestant who most accurately guesses its peak altitude and lateral drift wins. I think I must have spent close to two hours researching and deliberating on where to plot my guess in space.
Now, I recognize that my chances of winning are infinitesimally small; it’ll probably be some other lucky guy or gal that gets to rocket up above the heavens. But, at the very least (and it’s not very much “least” at all!), the contest introduced me to high altitude balloons — which, in case you need any persuasion, are awesome (hopefully that was persuasive enough). From my minimal research, it looks like people have launched DIY balloons and have posted tutorials on how to go about replicating their awesomeness. And I really do want to replicate their awesomeness, so I’m thinking, when I’m not busy at work and I’m not busy being not busy, I’ll spend my free time building (trying to build) a high altitude balloon. Even if I can’t launch myself up into space, hopefully I’ll be able to launch a big ol’ GPS-and-camera-equipped balloon up there.
Here’s a video taken from hobbyist Alexei Karpenko’s high altitude balloon. In case you couldn’t guess, I think it’s awesome.