The birthplace of the space age isn’t where you think
Scientists riding balloons in a remote region of the U.S. collected vital data used by NASA to get humans into orbit.
One thing is clear: No one is going ballooning today.
It is 6 a.m. on a recent Friday. I am standing amid a few dozen folks shivering in the early morning chill at a highway rest stop in the Black Hills, just west of Rapid City, South Dakota. Our heads are all tilted upward, our eyes squinting to keep sight of a tiny black dot—a small helium balloon released a few moments ago by Mark West, a tall, silver-haired fellow whose usual easy smile has turned to a tight-lipped frown.
“It’s going in the wrong direction,” he says. “That’ll take us to Mount Rushmore.” And there’s more bad news when he calls the Rapid City National Weather Service on his cell phone: