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Storm-damaged science balloon returned to Purdue by IU fan

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.– A science baloon launched by Purdue’s College of Technology was returned after an Indiana University fan found it damaged due to storms.

The balloon was launched the day before storms and tornadoes came through the state. The Association of Mechanical and Electrical Technologists students who launched the balloon lost telemetry high above Peru, Ind. Calculations show it reached almost 100,000 feet, but there was no way to know where jet streams approaching 200 mph sent the balloon. It crash-landed near Kalida, Ohio.

The Purdue Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department received a call from a farmer in Ottawa in northwest Ohio who found the balloon in his field. He thought it was a party balloon at first, then stopped at the last second when he realized it was something far more important.

Severe weather had removed the contact information from the balloon. Joseph Recker, an uncle to former IU basketball player Luke Recker, almost ran the balloon over with his combine.

Recker pulled the chip out of the attached video camera hoping to figure out what it was. His computer wouldn’t play the video from the memory card, so he took it to his local fertilizer plant where he and others were able to watch all the content, including the windy tumultuous launch.

The video included an inadvertent “selfie” of the student mounting the camera and wearing a Purdue hat.

Video clips can be seen on their YouTube channel

Recker checked the Purdue website and contacted the school. Within an hour the rightful owners called back. He kept the balloon waiting in his garage for the technology students until they could pick it up.