The Anderson - 1 has landed, the pictures have been sorted, and I've had time to think about what went right and what could have gone better. The parachute did slow down the craft, but tore on several grommets so we'll use a sturdier material next time. I would like to use a larger balloon next time (1500 gram or larger), but the same amount of helium (120 cubic feet worked fine and had plent of free lift...maybe a little too much?). A larger balloon with the same amount of helium will allow for greater expansion as it gains altitude, and a longer flight time.
On the camera, I'm going to start using a polarizing filter. Polarizing filters are used extensively in photography to cut down on glare and reflections. They allow you to look past the water vapor in the clouds, and reduce the sun's intense rays which oftentimes result in an "overexposed" Earth. I may also set the camera shutter speed to a specific number, instead of letting the camera decide which speed is best depending upon the amount of light in the photo. I read that 1/800 of second is good for near-space photography, but I'll need to do more research and try a few experiments with it.
This brings me to the more ambitious side of this future launch. NASA launched a 2-ton solar telescope that stayed aloft for several weeks as it watched the sun from above the distortion of our atmosphere. While I need to speak with an engineer and work out the technical aspects of this, I would like to put a solar filter on our camera (the kind used for viewing the sun through a telescope) and design a simple "sun tracker" platform for it. While it wouldn't be magnified beyond what software could do, a simple tracking platform for our camera could allow for amazing views of the sun. Since the balloon would sway and wander about with the wind, it will be more of a statistical increase in sun shots versus being able track it constantly. The solar filter would cut out most of the sun's light, and we could view our sun as it truly is: a star in space; a gigantic spherical fusion reactor. Of course, I could just take my chances and launch a camera with a solar filter on it, but I think the tracking platform is doable and worth a try. If we can track the sun, we can track the moon. If we can zoom in on the moon and take photos, we can try other objects....at 100K feet, 99% of the atmosphere is below you, which is the reason Hubble is up there in the first place. Balloon-based platforms will not be nearly as stable as one in Earth orbit, but it is worth a try. On the second camera, I'm going to get my sunrise from the edge of space, and employ the polarizing filter. If you have any ideas for launch, or would like to make a donation please do. All monies donated will be used for helium, balloons, filters, and launch-related expenses.