Quest for Stars project captures stunning images - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

TUESDAY, August 17, 2010

Quest for Stars project captures stunning images

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - We're getting our first look at images taken by a balloon sent to the edge of space. It's part of a mission to get students excited about the Quest for Stars program.

The nonprofit program was started by a local pilot who wants to inspire high school students to study science and space.

While the program's test flight ended up off course, the images it captured from the edge of space will no doubt have local teens wanting to reach for the stars.

"The goal of this program is to bring excitement to science," Quest for Stars founder Bobby Russell said.

The test flight provided out-of-this-world excitement. A high-altitude weather balloon known as Droid-1 was launched Aug. 6 from Warner Springs equipped with high-tech video and still cameras, as well as GPS devices.

The goal was to record its journey as it soared to the edge of space, ultimately reaching 107,000 feet. But the weather that Friday proved unpredictable.

"The balloon, instead of going straight up, kept going and going toward Palm Springs," Russell said.

GPS tracked Droid-1 to a remote area of the Morongo Valley of the San Bernardino mountain range. Ultimately the intrepid members of the San Gorgonio Search and Rescue Team -- enduring 100-plus degree temperatures -- recovered the payload after more than 14 hours of hiking.

It was an incredible journey with some incredible images shot from space, including pictures of the Salton Sea, a breathtaking shot from Huntington Beach to Baja, pictures of the L.A. Basin, and during Droid-1's re-entry over San Jacinto, an awesome view of Big Bear Lake.

Quest for Stars will be working this fall with Westview High School and the Poway Unified School District. Russell says the ultimate goal is to go nationwide with the nonprofit program, at a cost of $600 to $1,000 per school.

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