We launched our cameras into space to capture the greatest show on earth for the BBC.
Launching one of our most daring missions ever from Fort Laramie, Wyoming we set out to capture the stunning spectacle of a solar eclipse from the stratosphere to be shown as part of the BBC series Earth from Space. We've been waiting to talk about this since it happened, August 21, 2017!
Waking in time for a spectacular sunrise over endless plains our tracking team got to work preparing for the launch. With totality starting at 11:21am, timing was everything. We needed to be in the air at precisely the right minute to hit our target altitude at the moment of totality.
Wind was gusting on the ground so we opted for the shelter of a hangar to get our systems prepared for launch. We were using some bespoke technology and our most sophisticated launch systems, aiming to hit a higher altitude than ever before. We also had the company of sisters Rebecca and Kimberley Yeung who were launching their own experiment, along with the Montana Space Grant Consortium (who kept a diary of their launch experience here)
With a perfect launch prep completed, the clock ticked over 9:55am and we were up into the air, tracking our on board systems from the ground. Along with our tracking systems were six cameras taking video footage from every angle to ensure that we captured the main event.
As the eclipse began to unfold on the ground, so our flight began to capture its own images.
The turbulence of the flight increased as the shadow moved closer (pressure waves caused by the temperature difference of the moving shadow)
Within a matter of minutes we were entirely engulfed in the shadow of the eclipse
Then as quickly as it began, the shadow moved away and totality had ended. Our flight was not over at that point however, and continued onwards and upwards surpassing an altitude of 50km (165,000ft) before finally descending back to earth to be recovered by our team. With successful footage in hand the team returned to camp.
That night the team camped out under the night stars, treated to a spectacular view of the Milky Way galaxy without a streetlight for miles around.
(Image by Winston Yeung)
Check out the complete footage below. The series is also accompanied by a gorgeous hardcover book with over 200 stunning images of the Earth, including one from our flight.