SHUHAIB MAUDARBACCUS

At 10:02 BST on 1st August 2020, Dodo successfully blasted off to the stratosphere for a second time by means of a helium-filled weather balloon. The mission this time:

-Safely launch and recover the payload;

-Record unique 360-degree footage of Dodo and the Mauritian flag rising through the sky;

-Inspire as many children as possible;

-Raise as much funds as possible for charity.

As planned, the launch event was successfully broadcast live on Facebook to allow people to attend from wherever they were. We had viewers from Mauritius, the UK and as far as Australia join in! And the interactive feature made for a very fun livestream! However, just minutes before lift-off, the livestream got cut off… Every second that went by meant that precious flight footage would be lost, as the cameras were set to record till their battery ran out… Thankfully, we were able to quickly resume the livestream and within 10 minutes, we re-initialised launch procedures. Final checks complete, we were ready for the long-awaited countdown and 10 seconds later, we had lift-off!

Then came the stressful task to track down the payload and all sorts of questions started running through my mind. “Will the parachute deploy as expected? Did I actually start the video recording on the 360-degree camera? What if the payload lands in the middle of the motorway?” At 11:31 BST, we got a GPS ping indicating that the payload had overshot our predicted landing spot by quite a distance, but then the GPS pings stopped. We had complete radio silence which led me to think we had lost the payload…until 12:11 BST when the pings resumed, confirming the payload had landed safely and bringing the smile back to my face!

With the help of some wonderful people from Great Busby, a village in North Yorkshire, we successfully recovered the payload in a lush, grassy field at around 13:45 BST, 111km from where we had launched it! As soon as we got back to the car, we checked the 360-degree camera to make sure it had recorded the flight footage and what we saw left us speechless! Up in the sky, with no cloud in the way, the sun brightly shone over Dodo and our flag like the most powerful spotlight ever could! Suspended in the sky as if by magic, it looked surreal!

All in all, the project was a success but none of it would have been possible without God’s grace, the help and generosity of countless people who contributed so much to the project and helped us raise £285 for UNICEF, and everyone who tuned in to the livestream on launch day to make for such a fun and memorable event! It’s not over yet though! Look out for our final project video on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ProjectDITS/

For now, I leave you with a unique panoramic shot of Dodo on its vessel, leisurely rising through the sky!

Hello from the stratosphere! Don’t be fooled by the balloon size in the picture – it’s actually over 2m in diameter at that altitude!