Malta’s first space balloon was launched into the skies yesterday in order for it to capture never before seen aerial and space images of the islands.
The Stratos-1 was launched yesterday and will enable scientists to carry out studies of the Mediterranean stratosphere, the research and innovation ministry said.
The balloon soared 37km above Malta, collecting information about stratospheric conditions, the depth of the seas as well as the health of the country’s vegetation in what will be one of the island’s first “hyperspectral images” – a precise and detailed image of Malta’s territory.
Stratos-1 was launched from Esplora at Villa Bighi in Kalkara following the signing of a three-year collaboration agreement between the ministry and the University of Malta’s Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy.
“Malta is today doing another first. We are working towards the development of more human capital in the space sector, and we look forward to introducing further opportunities for industrial and educational institutions to participate in,” Equality, Research and Innovation Minister Owen Bonnici said of the launch.
He added that the project was also intended to increase the younger generation’s engagement and interest in science and space research.
The operation was coordinated by the Space Task Force with the collaboration of the Civil Aviation Department and the Armed Forces of Malta.
The camera on the balloon is equipped with a GPS device, provided by Medcomms Ltd, which works in areas where there is no mobile phone coverage to relay the real-time position of the spacecraft as it descends.
ISSA founder Kristian Zarb Adami expressed his hope that the project could inspire young children, especially girls, to embark on a career in the sciences, “while evoking their curiosity about our celestial wonders”.
He added that ISSA, which has been active in the field of space research for almost a decade, continues to work tirelessly to inspire the younger and older generations alike to look toward the heavens.
Zarb Adami also welcomed the ministry’s decision to sponsor a PhD, which will look into the information gathered from this launch and produce the first scientifically important data from the stratosphere.
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