Phoenix high schoolers launch weather balloon into atmosphere

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - A countdown into the clouds.

"We're called the 'Near Space Team,'" said Mike Vargas, physics teacher at Pinnacle High School. "We have a group of students within our physics program that ban together every year to launch weather balloons into the highest part of the atmosphere."

This year, the "Near Space Team" worked for three months preparing for the launch.

"We have on putting together our payload the little box that goes up with our balloon, make sure everything is running properly, running diagnostics," junior Caleb Hecht said.

"We put like one tank and a half of helium into it, so it has about 60 newtons of force right now," ninth-grader Amelie Reves said.

"I want them to know they can apply things that we're teaching them," Vargas said. "All the little things we teach in physics -- velocity, acceleration, forces -- that are directly applicable to what we're doing today ."

Vargas has been launching weather balloons for six years and this year, the team is hoping for a record.

"We're hoping to shoot for 105... 106 thousand feet," he said. "With that altitude, we're literally on the verge of space."

The team started tracking the balloon with GPS about two hours after the launch. That's when they could pick up the signal. They think because of the winds it could land somewhere near the Arizona-New Mexico border.