Chase the Blue Dot

Today was the opportunity of a lifetime. A fellow photographer from the Phoenix area, Ken Sklute, allowed me to shadow the process of getting the hot air balloon ready to go up in the mass ascension, chasing the balloon, and dismantling the balloon after landing in a field.

Getting ready to inflate

Already to set up for the day. Time to open the doors!
Already to set up for the day. Time to open the doors!
Rolling the basket into position.
Rolling the basket into position.
Getting the gloves out, ready to work.
Getting the gloves out, ready to work.
Crew is ready to work.
Crew is ready to work.
Putting the basket support with the propane blowers together.
Putting the basket support with the propane blowers together.
Done with that part of setup.
Done with that part of setup.
Making sure the GoPro is securely fastened and ready to go.
Making sure the GoPro is securely fastened and ready to go.
Moving the support over to the basket.
Moving the support over to the basket.
Zipping on the sleeves to the support poles, while hiding the hoses to the propane torch.
Zipping on the sleeves to the support poles, while hiding the hoses to the propane torch.
Hooking the envelope (balloon) to the support poles.
Hooking the envelope (balloon) to the support poles.
A closer look at the ropes.
A closer look at the ropes.
Rolling out the envelope to its full length.
Rolling out the envelope to its full length.
Another view of the rollout.
Another view of the rollout.
Taking off the straps around the envelope.
Taking off the straps around the envelope.
Another view of the straps.
Another view of the straps.
Getting the envelope all laid out for inflation.
Getting the envelope all laid out for inflation.

Inflating the envelope

There was a bit of time between laying out the envelope and actually inflating the balloon. The colorful balloon in the left corner had to stand up first and take off before inflation of the Fractals balloon could happen.

Just about ready to inflate!
Just about ready to inflate!
I laid down on the outside of the envelope and took photos while the fan was inflating the balloon. THis is #1 in a series.
I laid down on the outside of the envelope and took photos while the fan was inflating the balloon. THis is #1 in a series.
#2 in the series of inflation.
#2 in the series of inflation.
#3 in the series.
#3 in the series.
#4 in the series. Just about done, so I got out of the way of the crew after this photo. :)
#4 in the series. Just about done, so I got out of the way of the crew after this photo. 🙂
I took this photo through the crown on the top of the balloon while Ken Sklute walked by.
I took this photo through the crown on the top of the balloon while Ken Sklute walked by.
Getting ready to secure the ropes before using the propane torch.
Getting ready to secure the ropes before using the propane torch.
Making sure the propane is safely ready to go.
Making sure the propane is safely ready to go.
Using the propane to heat up the air on the inside.
Using the propane to heat up the air on the inside.
The balloon is stood up.
The balloon is stood up.
Last one in the basket before it's time to go!
Last one in the basket before it’s time to go!
The zebra (launch director) is telling them what comes next in the process.
The zebra (launch director) is telling them what comes next in the process.

Ascending

We have liftoff!
We have liftoff!
1 of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
1 of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
#2 of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
#2 of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
#3 of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
#3 of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
#4 of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
#4 of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
#5 and last of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.
#5 and last of several in the series showing the Fractals balloon in the air.

Chasing the balloon

The chase crew using an app to track the balloon and their position.
The chase crew using an app to track the balloon and their position.

Dismantling the balloon

Coming down on to the tarp.
Coming down on to the tarp.
Still deflating on to the tarp.
Still deflating on to the tarp.
When the balloon first started coming down, I didn't think there was any way that it could fit on that tarp without spilling over. I was wrong. :)
When the balloon first started coming down, I didn’t think there was any way that it could fit on that tarp without spilling over. I was wrong. 🙂
Crew member holding on and keeping the balloon straight for the next step - condensing the envelope and securing with ropes.
Crew member holding on and keeping the balloon straight for the next step – condensing the envelope and securing with ropes.
No, he is not kicking the crew member in front of him, but stepping over the support pole to get out of the basket.
No, he is not kicking the crew member in front of him, but stepping over the support pole to get out of the basket.
Condensing the envelope and securing with the straps.
Condensing the envelope and securing with the straps.
This almost looks like cheating, but it made it very easy to condense the envelope while a crew member secured with a strap behind them.
This almost looks like cheating, but it made it very easy to condense the envelope while a crew member secured with a strap behind them.
Running down to the end of the envelope to straighten it out.
Running down to the end of the envelope to straighten it out.
Pulling the envelope straight.
Pulling the envelope straight.
Putting the condensed envelope back into the bag, section by section.
Putting the condensed envelope back into the bag, section by section.
Stuffing the last of the envelope into the bag.
Stuffing the last of the envelope into the bag.
Dismantling the basket for transport.
Dismantling the basket for transport.
Basket heading back into the trailer for transport.
Basket heading back into the trailer for transport.

All in all, we had a great time experiencing the process and would love to do it again. Many thanks to Ken and his crew for letting me tag along and (try not to) get in the way of the process.

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