You can reach practically any corner of the globe via amateur radio. That’s the message K2BSA wanted to show Scouts at the World Scout Jamboree. Those in the amateur radio association launched four mylar balloons from the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, in hopes that one would catch the jet stream and end up on the other side of the world.
Each balloon, about 3 feet in diameter, was equipped with a global positioning system and an amateur radio transmitter. This combination of devices could relay information about weather conditions, the balloons’ movement and location. Solar panels power the transmitter, sending signals during daylight hours. Filled with high-grade helium, each balloon could reach a height between 28,000 to 32,000 feet — that’s nearly as high as most commercial planes fly.
Watch the launch of the first balloon here:
The first balloon, launched July 21, was only in the air for several hours before it was last tracked northeast of The Summit, still in West Virginia.
The second balloon, however, which went up July 24, sent its last message two days later — from Spain. Specifically, the balloon reported back from the north-central part of the country, near the village of Bordecorex.
The third balloon was launched July 27. The next day, signals were sent back from New Jersey; the next day, it appeared to be floating by Newfoundland. By August 4, it had crossed Morocco and Algeria and had reached Tunisia.
The final balloon went up July 29 and is tracking the opposite direction, last tracked over eastern Kentucky.
Radio into space
The amateur radio association also arranged communication with the International Space Station on July 27. Scouts were able to ask astronaut and assistant Scoutmaster Andrew Morgan some questions about space and his 8-month mission in space.
Watch the communication during the first 10 minutes of the video below. The rest of the video shows some of the cool tents set up around the World Point Stage, where the transmission happened.
For more than 60 years, amateur radio has been a fun part of the World Scout Jamboree. The Jamboree-on-the-Air was launched during the 1957 World Scout Jamboree in the United Kingdom.