Jordan McKaig, Tristan Caro, Alex Hyer, Elizabeth Delgadillo Talburt, Sonali Verma, Kaixin Cui, Anna-Sophia Boguraev, Molly Heit, Aimee Johnson, Emily Johnson, Andrew Jong, Brooke Shepard, Jamie Stankiewiz, Nhung Tran and Jon Rask
High-altitude balloons (HABs) present a valuable and cost-effective tool for educators and students to access the conditions that are analogous to space and extraterrestrial environments in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Historically, HABs have been used for meteorological measurements, observation, sampling of aerosols, and exposure of samples to upper atmosphere environments. The Earth’s stratosphere allows researchers access to a unique combination of wideband solar radiation, extreme cold, rarefied air, low humidity, and acute ionizing radiation—conditions that are relevant to space biology research. Here, we describe a reproducible payload for a HAB mission that can be constructed, launched, and retrieved for about $3,000. This general standard operating procedure can be used by educators, community scientists, and research teams working with limited resources.