Small step, giant space shuttle

The finished balloon space shuttle, 65 feet tall.


Quick stats
Balloons used: 30,000
Height: 65 feet
Build time: 4 days
Crew size: 8
Volunteers: hundreds
Equipment: Custom inflators designed by Airigami and Aircraft Pumps, along with additional inflators from Zephyr Solutions.
Other:  50-ton crane


At the end of four days of building, we had a reasonably accurate one-third scale Space Shuttle, complete with external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters. We met a lot of amazing people, and somehow, with their help, we managed to pull off the final assembly outdoors in 97°F. The months of planning paid off. All 58 pages of blueprints were followed so every balloon appeared where it was supposed to. (Almost) every balloon was covered with silicone to help protect it from the sun and outside air.

Here's the final build video:


Documenting a project this large is as hard as designing and building it. Luckily, we had some help. Photos from the last day of assembly are provided here by Ula Baldwin. Ula was one of the volunteers we met during the build. She heard me talking about how hard it was to photograph everything as we worked and offered to take a bit of the load off of me. Some of Ula's photos also appear in the video above, along with a few photos from Russ Fortson.

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Leads: Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle
Crew members: Todd Neufeld, Lisa McIntire, Brian Asman, Drew Ripley, Suzanne Haring, Richard Hughson. Thanks to Melissa Vinson, Teri Stokes, and Pat Crosland for assisting.

Special thanks:
Transplant Games of America for making us part of their amazing event.
Harris County-Houston Sports Authority for hosting us.
Pioneer Balloon for supplying Qualatex Balloons.