Balloon-Borne Telescope was Launched In 1971
(The following article is adapted from an article published in
the Marshall Star on July 31, 1996)
1971, scientists from the Marshall Center launched an 8400-pound
balloon-borne telescope from Redstone Army Airfield. They called
it "Stratoscope II," an astronomical telescope designed
to obtain sharper pictures of certain galaxies, nebulae, and the
planet Saturn than were possible at the time.
The telescope was a four-ton, 36-inch aperture optical system
capable of providing resolution of 0.1 second of arc-- equal to
the ability to distinguish two objects 30 inches apart at a distance
of 1,000 miles.
Launched on September 9, 1971, the telescope reached its operating
altitude at about 82,800 feet . Controlled from a Marshall Center
station on Green Mountain, it drifted westward at about 20 to
25 miles per hour and came down on a farm about seven miles southeast
of Bald Knob, Arkansas.
Although he was not officially assigned to the Stratoscope II
Project, Marshall's Dr. Thomas Parnell had an unusual opportunity
to view the balloon travel across the mid-South. "I was flying
a Naval Reserve A4 from Memphis at the time of the launch, and
watched the balloon being inflated from the air. I had no part
in the operations, just happened to be in the area."
Three primary scientific targets were photographed by the telescope;
Galaxy M31 (commonly known as Andromeda), Galaxy M32, and Planetary
Nebula NGC 7662.