Texans launch a spacecraft? - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Texans launch a spacecraft?


Have you ever wanted to be an astronaut? Well you're not alone. Rich Garcia and Erich Roeder wanted the same thing when they were kids, but it didn't happen. So they did something about it.

They launched a weather balloon with a capsule containing a camera and mounted pictures of themselves in front of the lens.

They couldn't afford a rocket, so they used a low-tech approach: a cooler and a weather balloon. Cheap and light was the only way to fly.

"This is a capsule that we will be launching into near space," Rich Garcia said while Erich Roeder held up the cooler.

They sealed the cooler, stuck a camera in the hole they cut, and engineered a way for their pictures to be in front of the camera. They chose East Texas because of the flat terrain and they were both in the area. They had to follow F.A.A. rules like clearance and making it radar friendly.

"It's gold foil that's put together in a shape so when the radar reflects off it appears larger than it really is," Erich said.

They launched from the Robert E. Lee High School parking lot.

Erich, a pilot for American Airlines, found an app that would predict the balloon's flight pattern, but they still had to drive around like storm chasers to find it.

"The entire morning was actually filled with a lot of anxiety and sometimes arguments about what our next step should be," admitted Rich.

The "capsule" contained a GPS Tracker that only weighed a few ounces, and it landed within a few miles of the app's prediction.

They found it in a field near Canton. The first clips they viewed only showed clouds and blue sky.

"And then we skipped back even farther, and the next thing we know we see the darkness of space and we screamed, hey we actually did it!" Erich said.

"It was an incredible feeling. I'll never forget that feeling. It was wonderful," Rich beamed.

"I had adventures with my buddy Erich as a kid, and here we are in our mid-forties, we have our careers, we have our families, and we're still having adventures together," Rich beamed.

[Click here to watch the video. WARNING: Explicit Language]

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