12-year-old Austin middle-schooler strives to reach space

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by MORGAN CHESKY / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

kvue.com

Posted on September 21, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 21 at 11:18 PM

AUSTIN -- His love for rock music is hard to miss. If Ken Burridge isn't playing guitar, it's football - typical seventh-grader stuff.

"If it's interesting to me I kind of want to do it," said Burridge.

But when summer break boredom hit last July, Ken set his sights on something a little different.

"Take a video or camera up into space and take pictures of outer space which is amazing," Burridge said.

He got the idea from a project done by a bunch of M.I.T. students, not exactly middle-schoolers.

It wasn't long before the backyard became Burridge's lab.

"I mainly focused on the hard stuff first," he said. "The balloon, the parachute, and the helium."

It was all designed to carry some precious cargo. An HD camera and a GPS transmitter in the foam pod den, christened the Icarus 1.

Launch day came soon enough and with a $1000 worth of cargo, Burridge's project was an expensive gamble.

"I kind of screamed when he let it go," said Darren, his father. "I thought that's it! All that equipment is floating away and is never going to come back."

Burridge's only hope was a program that was feeding GPS coordinates back to his laptop.

Icarus 1 rose over Central Texas for 100 minutes, until the inevitable pop followed by one long fall.

"It [the program] said it was right in front of a house in Blanco, Texas," Burridge said.

The house turned out to be a field outside Blanco nearly 50 miles from Austin. Footage captured the journey in every detail from a perspective rarely seen.

"You could see the sun, you could see space, you know it was beautiful," Darren said. "I'm just looking forward to the next project, if it's as fun as this one. But I don't know what he has in mind."

Even Burridge said he's still figuring out what his next big mission will be.

Whatever it is, for this seventh-grader the sky isn't much of a limit. 

For a look at the full journey of ICARU1, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQlECwJr7d4&feature=plcp

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