No Balloon Boy Here; He's For Real

Amateur scientist reaches for "near space'

By Damian Trujillo
|  Monday, Aug 30, 2010  |  Updated 3:45 PM PDT
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No Balloon Boy Here; He's For Real

californianearspaceproject.com

Ron Meadows is a swimming pool repair man by day and a amateur scientist by night.

His goal right now is to break a record by sending a weather balloon 120,000 feet, or 40-plus miles into space.

We caught up with Meadows in the early morning hours Monday as he launched one of his weather balloons hoping to break that record.

"It's everything I enjoy," he said. "How close can I get to space. The science, to photograph it , and what does it look like."

For now, his highest launch reached 105,000 feet above the earth.

Before his launch this morning, Meadows got the all-clear form the F.A.A., and other agencies.

It's a personal endeavor for Meadows.

"The balloon is filled to 6 1/2 feet in diameter," said Meadows. "When it reaches the maximum altitude, it would have swelled to 42 feet in diameter and burst, and start  coming back down at 10,000 feet per minute."

Meadows said that at 122,000 feet, the temperature reaches at least negative 60 degrees.

So he's amazed his electronic equipment still works with those extreme temperatures.

Just over 3 hours after the launch, Meadows read out the altitude.

"122,469. We are now in 5th place," said Meadows.

The record is 128,379 feet by the University of Maryland.

But 5th place is as far as Meadows got on this day. The last reading came in at 122,676 feet, before the balloon burst.

When asked if he was disappointed. "Not at all," said Meadows. "To get to the top 5 is fantastic."

The launch cost Meadows roughly $800, and the pool repair man says he'll do it all over again, next year.

 Below is a clip that shows Meadows explaining his venture.

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