A Speedmaster's Visit To Near Space

Mission Objective:
With your help and support, I will send an iconic wristwatch, the Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph, via high-altitude balloon, to the stratosphere. Sounds simple enough, right? The devil is in the details and there are A LOT of details, but truthfully, that's half the fun. When this is all over, I hope that I will have not only successfully sent an Omega Speedmaster to near space, but have also sparked a scientific curiosity in those that have followed the project.

I grew up wanting to be an astronaut hurtling through space towards the moon or some other distant celestial object. Over time interests change, and unfortunately we can't all be astronauts. For me, I graduated from college with a Political Science degree and loved nearly every minute of it. I greatly enjoyed my time studying international relations, which ultimately led to an incredible job with the US Government. Despite my chosen career path, I have always maintained a strong interest in the sciences and on occasion, wish that I had pursued a degree in engineering or physics. I periodically follow news stories about the International Space Station and the daily wanderings of the mars rover-I am awe struck by the recent mars rover photograph of Earth as the little blue spot in the Martian night sky.

I have wanted to send a camera into the stratosphere for quite some time now. The addition of an Omega Speedmaster was a more recent change, but one that I feel is very fitting. Watch and space aficionados reading this will undoubtedly know why I have chosen a Speedmaster. The Omega Speedmaster, also known as "the moon watch", was selected by NASA in the early days of the space program. It is the watch that was worn by Apollo astronauts on the surface of the moon and was a critical part of helping the Apollo 13 astronauts return home after their spacecraft's catastrophic explosion. As mentioned earlier, the Speedmaster is a chronograph, which essentially means that it is capable of tracking elapsed seconds, minutes and hours. It is the only watch qualified by NASA for extravehicular activity (EVA). Essentially, anytime the astronauts needed to go outside, they had a hand-wound mechanical watch strapped to their wrists totally exposed to the rigors of space.

This project isn't going to be anything new for the Speedmaster, but I like the idea of subjecting something without a battery to the rigors of extreme temperature and pressure change in a world of increasingly power hungry devices. In my mind, mechanical watches have a bit more soul than the clock on my iPhone. In the early days of the US space program, NASA subjected the Speedmaster to a battery of tests to ensure that the watch could operate in the extremes of space. No matter what NASA threw at it, the Speedmaster just kept on ticking. In a space environment, there can be a four hundred degree temperature difference between light and dark and the Speedmaster handled it all in stride. Since this is a chronograph after all, I plan to start the timer at launch and the entire flight will be recorded with GoPro cameras. In the end, we will have footage documenting flight time from launch to landing.

Mission Details:
With your help and support, I will purchase an Omega Speedmaster and all of the necessary equipment to make this project possible. As the Speedmaster will be a large chunk of the fundraising goal, I would like to work with an authorized Omega dealer to procure a Speedmaster at a reduced cost, in exchange for advertising exposure. If I'm able to purchase a Speedmaster at a reduced rate, I will adjust the fundraising goal accordingly.

In addition to the Speedmaster, I will require the use of two GoPro cameras, a Spot Trace, flight computer, weather balloon, parachute, radar reflector, a canister of helium, and a variety of odds-and-ends. One GoPro will record HD video of the flight with a clear view of the Speedmaster, and the other will snap high-resolution photos capturing the curvature of the earth and other awe-inspiring images from 100,000 feet. The Spot Trace provides location data via satellite link and will aid in recovery. Accurate location data is critical, as the jet stream could carry the payload up to sixty miles from the launch site.

Final Note:
In the event that the money raised exceeds total project costs, I will donate any excess to STEM Washington, a science, technology, engineering and math organization that works to promote innovation, excellence and equity in STEM education.


Dustin Neikirk
Edmonds, WA

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