On my factory rounds last week, I came across these splashing around the Loon lab.
Intrigued, I asked our lab dog George, “Why do you have Katy Perry’s slippers in here?” Although there have been rumors that X has been working on interspecies communication, we’re clearly not done yet, because George just looked at me.
George, the lab dog
Fortunately, George’s human lab companions, Pavan, Zach and Pam, were able to tell me what was afoot. “The sharkies are a critical piece of equipment. They make sure we don’t damage the balloons while we’re inspecting them,” explains Pam, the team’s Head Balloonatic.
Pavan and Zach get ready to inspect a Loon balloon in from the wild
Balloon forensics is a delicate business. When the Loon balloons come down from the stratosphere, they are laid out on a giant scanner in the Loon lab to be inspected for microscopic holes and tears. “A lot can happen to the balloons up in the stratosphere” Pam notes. “They travel 20km above the earth, at speeds of over 100km, and face temperatures as low as -80°C. Since we aim to create a fleet of balloons that can last for more than 100 days at a time, it’s important to know how the balloons withstand these extremes, and how to make the next batch even stronger.” Our longest flyer so far stayed aloft for 190 days!
Pamela Desrochers, Head Balloonatic
Our balloonatics have a long history of wearing fluffy socks as they walk along the balloons during inspections; they realized that their ordinary socks may have been causing microscopic abrasions that were indistinguishable from the stresses caused by the stratosphere. But as Pam sagely observes, “One day, I realized that we were gonna need some bigger socks”.
Mystery solved. I returned to my rounds and filed item #74275437 in the cabinet.
Learn more about Project Loon