High-altitude balloon project GLORY

A story how I managed to take a picture of Lithuania from the space

From an early age I dreamed of things that were laughed at by most adults. I was always fascinated by the sky and I always wanted to have a bird’s eye view of the Earth. My wish to go up into space overcame all doubts over the possibility of failure, and my desire to show that there is nothing impossible was the key driving force behind the objective. I was certain I would succeed sooner or later, but all this has surpassed all my expectations...

It started when, at the age of fifteen, I told myself that someday I would take a picture of the Earth from space myself. The circumstances, however, contributed to the fact that I started working towards my objective in the very same year. And I am very happy about that because when you are a child everything seems really easy and feasible. The development of this project convinced me that everything is possible!

The essence of the project was to fasten camera to a large balloon filled with helium and to release the balloon. The balloon must take the camera in to a height of more than 30 km. The atmosphere at this height is incredibly thin, the sky is pitch-black, and the Earth‘s curvature and bright blue atmospheric layer are seen on the horizon–the same way as it looks like from space.

It is not as simple as it might seem at first glance. I need a tracking system to find my camera. The camera does not take pictures itself; there must be a system developed which would control the camera. Since the temperature reaches −60 °C at 10 km height (the balloon reaches more than 30 km height), all the equipment has to be well-insulated. It is necessary to think about a safe landing by constructing waterproof and shockproof equipment. Finally, it is necessary to keep in mind that the probe has to be as light as possible.

After two years of work on the project, I launched my first probe GLORY I in autumn 2009.

GLORY I launch

Here is the balloon (2 metres in diameter) filled with hydrogen which took all the equipment.

All the equipment functioned perfectly and it seemed that everything had been foreseen, except for one thing–the wind. Therefore, after reaching 33 km height, which is three times higher than the height of passenger planes fly, the balloon landed in Belarus, in the borderland, with all the expensive equipment and the memory card containing flight pictures. I was unable to recover the equipment.

Considerable interest expressed by people encouraged me to move on and continue with the project. I learned from my mistakes and started constructing the next probe GLORY II without delay.

It took me another two years to gather and assemble all necessary equipment. The summer 2011 witnessed the launch of the more advanced probe GLORY II.

GLORY II electronics

This photo shows probe’s electronic system I have developed consisting of GPS receivers, tracking systems, etc. All the equipment was well-insulated within a special case.

GLORY II hardware

This time I foresaw everything. Two cameras were taken in to a height of 31.7 km. Around 3000 pictures were taken during an entire flight. After the equipment was found on the ground, I transferred the pictures into my computer and...

Near space

When I saw such an image I was extremely excited. This image is a result of 4 years of my endeavours to design, assemble and test all the necessary equipment. Although I experienced a number of setbacks, I never gave up. Beneath, at a distance of approximately 30 km, you can see Lithuania.

Lithuania from near space

All that hard and determination really paid off. The feeling you have when no-one believes you but you still manage to achieve your aim is incredible. A few more dreams came true: I met with real astronauts. Confidence in my success has changed my life. I have gained considerable knowledge during the project. In addition to the theoretical and practical knowledge, I have understood the most important thing: there is nothing impossible, all you need is to strive for the goal at any price.