'HALO' to carry bacteria experiment aloft
March 31, 2009

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Students from 15 institutions, including Bryan College, will launch high-altitude balloons April 4, to create a network to study climate change, promote science education and demonstrate an emergency communications system.Dr. Stephen Barnett holds the tether for the first HALO balloon launched last fall.


Jason Krueger, president of StratoStar Systems, coordinating the effort with Taylor University in Indiana, said the High-Altitude Launch Opportunity (HALO) project, will see balloons rise to some 20 miles above the earth where they will collect climate data and conduct experiments designed by each school.


Dr. Stephen Barnett, professor of natural sciences at Bryan, said his students will conduct an experiment to measure the resistance of a common harmless soil bacterium to high-altitude gamma-ray radiation. He said the Bryan balloon’s launch site will be determined late Friday based on the weather forecast for Saturday.


During Bryan’s first HALO launch in November 2008, the jet stream, measured at 174 miles per hour, carried the balloon and instruments to southwestern Virginia. Students tracked and recovered the balloon’s instruments, using GPS signals from the balloon.


In addition to the individual experiments, each balloon will carry StratoStar’s HALO network unit, a global positioning system, APRS HAM radio, Geiger counter and sensors to measure carbon dioxide, temperature, humidity and pressure.


The HALO II project is funded by NASA’s Indiana’s Space Grant Consortium as a Workforce Development Grant. In 2007, StratoStar Systems and Taylor University received funding from the National Science Foundation to host summer workshops for professors to learn about integrating high-altitude balloon launches into their courses. Dr. Barnett attended a workshop and enlisted Bryan College in the project.


In addition to Bryan, schools involved in the HALO II project include Taylor University, DePauw University, University of Southern Indiana, Ball State University and Valparaiso University, all in Indiana; DePaul University in Illinois; University of Wisconsin; University of Minnesota and College of St. Catherine in Minnesota; Wright State University and Cedarville University in Ohio; Medgar Evers College in New York, Temple University in Pennsylvania; and Norfolk State University in Virginia.