Dennis Stelmack is offering a $200 cash reward to anyone who can track down the wayward tail section of a weather balloon that broke up on its descent over the weekend.
Stelmack launched the balloon from Legacy Park in Fort Saskatchewan on Saturday (Aug.25) during the Harvest Festival, an annual summer-end celebration for kids taking part in the Grow Your Own Project.
Stelmack created Grow Your Own a few years ago to help children learn where food comes from – participating kids seed, weed, water and harvest their own garden produce, then donate some of their bounty to local food banks.
“This is our fourth annual Harvest Festival,” Stelmack said. “It was our best festival ever.”
Record crowds turned out for this year’s event, Stelmack added, saying everything went well throughout an afternoon of fun activities that included games, live music and a farmer’s market, and that the yearly launch of a hydrogen-filled weather balloon outfitted with cameras and GPS trackers started out just fine.
“The fill of the balloon went good, the release of the balloon went good,” Stelmack said.
The balloon floated about 100,000 feet high before popping and beginning its parachute-aided return to the ground, its onboard GPS trackers keeping Stelmack updated on its location every 30 seconds.
At about 30,000 feet one of the two GPS trackers stopped sending its signal.
“And the last time it actually sent out a set of coordinates was at 30,000 feet above earth. And at that point it must have sheared off from the balloon. So the bottom portion of our payload is still missing in action,” Stelmack said.
The balloon had been heading eastward from Fort Saskatchewan. Stelmack believes the missing part probably landed in a farmer’s field somewhere along township roads 550 to 554, north of Mundare/Warwick and south of Andrew/Willingdon between secondary highways 855 and 857. The rest of the balloon ended up six miles short of its predicted landing spot.
Its battery likely dislodged or almost dead, the GPS tracker on the lost piece is no longer sending a signal. Stelmack hopes that area farmers will keep their eyes out for it and get it – and its video footage -- back to him.
"It had footage of the event and the whole entire space launch. So it would have pictures all the way up to space," he said.
The lost equipment should be easy to spot. The GPS tracker is a pink box covered with Canada flag stickers; it's attached to an 18-foot banner printed with the logos of the Harvest Festival’s sponsors. Stelmack is offering more than just cash for the safe return of the lost equipment. The $200 comes with some perks, he said.
Anyone who finds the missing piece can contact Stelmack through the Grow Your Own Facebook page or by calling MIX 107.
“The perks will be added once it comes back. But they'll be some pretty good perks for the person who finds it."