Purpose of the flight and payload description

There is no much data on the true nature of the instruments carried in this balloon flight. Only information available from public sources mentions that the balloon carried a sealed, unmanned gondola outfitted with classified radar and aerial cameras developed by Goodyear Aerospace for the U.S. Air Force. These devices where designed to take radar images and conventional photographs of the Earth's surface from the stratosphere.

Details of the balloon flight

Balloon launched on: 12/9/1959 at 8:05 local
Launch site: Akron, Ohio, US  
Balloon launched by: Goodyear Aircraft Co.
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon 2.000.000 cuft
End of flight (L for landing time, W for last contact, otherwise termination time): 12/9/1959 at 12:50 local
Balloon flight duration (F: time at float only, otherwise total flight time in d:days / h:hours or m:minutes - ): ~ 5 h
Landing site: In New Canaan, Conneticut, US

The balloon was launched by dynamic method using a truck with a rear-mounted frame, at 8:05 a.m. local time on December 9, 1959. The ascent phase went smoothly with the balloon rising at 850 feet per minute. to reach an altitude of 100,000 feet in less than two hours.

Goodyear Aircraft engineers who were to follow the balloon took off from Akron around 9 a.m. in a small airplane. Initial plans were for the balloon and payload to land somewhere in Pennsylvania, but strong winds knocked it off course, more than 450 miles toward New York. As they approached Poughkeepsie, engineers radioed the Federal Aviation Administration about the balloon off course and at 12:50 p.m. sent a signal to automatically separate the gondola from the balloon. However, they lost sight of him shortly after the parachute deployed while descending toward the neighboring state of Connecticut.

The deflated balloon descended at Poughkeepsie, meanwhile, Goodyear engineers contacted Connecticut authorities and told a state dispatcher that the crew had lost track of the gondola, but that under no circumstances should the public be allowed to approach. to the team once on the ground. Also, local newspaper photographers should not be allowed to approach.

The gondola eventually landed on Mohawk Mountain, a ski area in the 4,000-acre Mohawk State Forest in Connecticut. Robert Bailey, a carpenter who lived in the Cornwall Hills, noticed the descending object around 1:30 p.m. "He looked like a man on a parachute," he said. "So of course, I went looking for him." He and his friend Herb Gray walked through the woods for about an hour until they found the 1,000-pound object. "It was crushed against an oak tree," Bailey told a reporter. "There were parts of it all over the place."

The men were unaware that this was a top-secret mission, so they pulled some of the items out of the forest and loaded them into the back seat of Bailey's car. Connecticut police stopped the car as it descended from the mountain and officers recovered the instruments before Goodyear Aircraft engineers arrived. The next day, it was necessary to use an excavator to open a 2-mile road through the forest so that a truck could enter and retrieve the gondola. Meanwhile, another team set about extracting the balloon from trees in upstate New York. Engineers returned the damaged equipment to Akron for analysis as newspapers across the country published articles about the panic on the East Coast.

Despite the bumpy course of the flight, the mission was a success as the balloon managed to capture radar images of the Earth's surface from the stratosphere.

External references

Images of the mission

Detailed view of the payload at launch View of the balloon launch View of the balloon ascending from above The landing site of the gondola  

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