Education

Space egg lands in Tacoma yard. Kids’ science experiment a stratospheric success

How hard is it to launch an egg into space?

A Key Peninsula Middle School science class launches “Jelly” the egg into to space to learn more about science and technology.
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A Key Peninsula Middle School science class launches “Jelly” the egg into to space to learn more about science and technology.

Jelly the egg visited the stratosphere on Monday afternoon before landing in a North Tacoma yard.

The egg landed unscrambled at the end of an adventure that lasted less than two hours and started when it was launched by 425 Key Peninsula Middle School students participating in a science project.

The project coordinated by teacher Richard Miller, used a weather balloon to lift an orange Styrofoam cooler loaded with five cameras, three tracking devices and the raw egg. The egg was placed on arm extending from the cooler so that it would appear in the foreground of the video that shows the neighborhood, the South Sound and eventually the curvature of the earth.

The balloon carried its payload higher than 96,000 feet before the balloon burst. It descended to earth via a parachute.

The cooler landed so gently in the backyard of a North Tacoma man who was gardening that he didn’t realize what had happened. The man posed for pictures with the team that came to recover the cooler but told them he did not want to speak publicly.

Before the launch, students predicted where the balloon would land based on wind and the amount of helium that would be placed in the balloon. Then a whimsical face was drawn on the egg and students gave it its name.

Three recovery crews followed the balloon tracking it with GPS. Sky Bressette, an 18-year-old Peninsula High student who participated in a similar experiment in the past, watched the path of the balloon on his lap top has while riding in a car with his parents, Dana and Edmund Bressette.

Miller was at a nearby park and saw the parachute dropping. He met the Bressettes — passing a group of wide-eyed kids along the way — at the North Tacoma home. When they peeked over the fence they saw the cooler and a small, baffled dog running around the contraption.

The weather balloon cost about $150 and the helium, up to $500 in value, was donated. The project is sponsored by Miller’s Key Peninsula Science and Education Foundation. He says the foundation’s mission is the same as the experiment. “We want to get kids excited about science,” Miller said.

It was the fifth egg launched from the school, and the third launch from the school grounds. Two previous launches were staged near Rainier.

Past balloons landed in Pasco, Sunnyside and North Bend.

In 2015, the balloon went missing for more than 500 days, Miller said. Both GPS trackers failed and the balloon dropped into the thick woods of Tiger Mount State Forest. The container was eventually discovered by a hiker who found the contact information attached to the box.

The first egg to complete a mission was named Phil. Miller said Phil was drained after the experiment and is on display at the school.

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