Student helium balloon project snaps Sask. class photo from edge of space

Teacher James Stone says his grade six students’ “jaws hit the desk” when they saw their own faces staring back at them from the edge of space.

Cut Knife Elementary School students lead successful space mission

Teacher James Stone says his Grade 6 students' "jaws hit the desks" when they saw their class photo at the edge of space. (Cut Knife Elementary School Grade 6 class)

Teacher James Stone says his students' "jaws hit the desk" when they saw their own faces looking back at them from the edge of space.

The Grade 6 students from Cut Knife Elementary School had launched their class photo into the atmosphere on a helium balloon launched from a field west of the Saskatchewan town on May 10.

When a camera attached to the balloon snapped their picture in front of the curve of the Earth, it had risen about 30 kilometres into the atmosphere.

Up, up and away

Stone said that was higher than 99 per cent of the Earth's air.

Although the students had spent two months testing the launch to iron out any kinks, he said he was still blown away by the quality of the pictures and the success of the launch. 

Grade 6 students from the Cut Knife Elementary School prepare for the launch of their space balloon. (Submitted by James Stone)

"It spun on the way up but it was quite slow, and even when it came down the picture was remarkably steady all the way down," said Stone.

"It's a ruler held on with duct tape but it's holding really well."

Testing, testing

Along with the camera, the students also attached a box containing a computer, a sensor, a battery and a GPS tracker. 
After months of testing, students watch the successful launch of their space balloon. (Submitted by James Stone)

The sensor malfunctioned, but the students were still able to record the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels along the way.

They recovered the balloon about 50 or 60 kilometres away from the launch site, south of North Battleford, Sask., between Wilkie, Sask., and the Mosquito Grizzly Bear's Head First Nation.

Stone said the project was part of the Grade 6 flight unit, which teaches students about different ways of flying and lighter-than-air flight.

He added that the students were still learning from the experience, with plans to produce a short video with the help of a local media team.

The group are also holding a party to celebrate their success on Wednesday

"These are 11 and 12-year-old kids, and they did something amazing," said Stone. 

With files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition