A group of Phnom Penh technology professionals on Saturday launched a high-altitude helium balloon they dubbed “Preah Atith” into the stratosphere above Kandal province to photograph space from Cambodia, organizers said yesterday.
The helium balloon, given the Khmer name for the sun, carried a video camera, a still camera and two global positioning system beacons from National Road 1 in Kandal roughly 35 km up and then back down to a field outside a village in Kompong Speu.
Similar high-altitude balloons are commonly used in many countries for mapping projects, but Eduardo Jezierski, the project’s initiator, said yesterday that the Preah Atith team’s goal for the project was to give participants a different perspective on their homeland.
“We gathered most of the materials for our balloon just from around town,” said Mr Jezierksi, chief technical officer at the communications technology NGO InSTEDD in Phnom Penh, who brought the balloon itself from the US. “The nice thing about balloons is that you can make them almost anywhere.”
Channe Suy, a product manager at InSTEDD who helped build the Preah Atith rig, said yesterday that the Kompong Speu villagers took an intense interest in the fallen capsule.
“This is something that opened people’s eyes to what is about the earth where they live,” said Ms Suy. “When the villagers on the road saw the video, they crowded around and were very amazed.”
Ms Suy said she hoped to be part of future launches and that she was already planning on bringing high-altitude launches to secondary schools, where she said they could serve as a way to show students that science can be relevant and exciting.
Teng Peng Seang, managing director of the Phnom Penh Geoinformatics Education Center, said that high-altitude balloon rigs were being used with increased frequency by developers and the government to survey land.
“A lot of government ministries and NGOs have begun using this technology. Even the municipality of Phnom Penh asks me to survey from the air before they proceed with developments,” said Mr Seang, who praised the Preah Atith project as a creative use of a practical technology.