Our Balloon Launch with Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert Launch: The Beginnings


Let's paint a brief picture for everyone. Let's imagine you've been pursuing a hobby for a little over a year. At this point, you have a low-budget (zero, to be exact) blog, have put out a very brief user guide about how to do a high altitude balloon launch, and are still having a great time exploring near-space via photo/video, mostly ignorant to the other happenings in the domain of near-space ballooning.

Then, one day, you get an email that (edited for names and length) essentially says: "Hi There! This is The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. We'd love to do a launch with you guys! Give us a call anytime. Sincerely, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert".

Yeah, right. You're telling me that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert found us amidst the mind-boggling expanse of the internet, and now wants us to help them launch a weather balloon? 

To be honest, we were almost convinced that this was a phishing scam and hit the "delete" button. However, doing a deeper dive into the sender, the cbs.com email, and a few other factors, it soon became apparent that either A) this was a VERY elaborate phishing scam, or B) it might actually just be the actual The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. 

Turns out: it was our blog and near-space high altitude balloon user guide that led them to contact us.

While we're somewhat limited due to our contract in terms of what we can say and the footage we can show, this is the story of how we came to help Stephen Colbert send Astronaut Ice Cream to near space!

Disclaimer: And yes, for all you moon-landing conspiracy theorists that have already posted comments to the YouTube episode, we did actually plan and launch a near-space weather balloon with Astronaut Ice Cream and a 3D-printed Colbert head, as shown in the skit.

We will release one blog post a week in the coming weeks that documents how we built the Colbert craft, how we tested the craft to be sure we would be successful, and how the actual launch day went!

The awesome folks at MakerBot supplied a 3D printed head of Colbert in an astronaut suit for the near-space footage.

The awesome folks at MakerBot supplied a 3D printed head of Colbert in an astronaut suit for the near-space footage.

Post 1: Preparation and Design

In the first detailed blog post, we will go into what hardware we used to build, track, and shoot the Astronaut Ice Cream is a Lie near-space footage, including those (such as MakerBot) that helped make this all possible.

Post 2: Colbert Flight Test (CFT-1): Test Launch

In this second detailed post, we will cover the details of the test flight launch day, share some of our lessons learned that day that you can take with you to your next launch, and share some of our awesome drone footage during take-off!

Post 3: Colbert Launch Day

Want to know how the actual launch day went? You'll have to come back for this final installment in the launch series.