"What goes up must come down".
After the spectacular images of the balloon burst were transmitted from NTBP#6, the onboard telemetry informed ground stations that something was very, very wrong. The large hemispherical parachute that was to allow the payload land at a gentle 11 mph had become so tangled that it simply streamered in the slip stream of the descending payload. The last GPS reported descent rate of about 3100 feet per minute (36 mph) came at about 700 feet above a north Texas cow pasture. Seconds later the NTBP#6 payload experienced a large acceleration spike. This image indicates that the reported velocity probably didn't change much until that acceleration spike.
The hole in the top of the package is where the GPS patch antenna was mounted to a 6 inch diameter PC board ground plane. The white ball on the right side held the color video camera and the 3/8 inch aluminum tube (rotating arm) is visibly bent downward. There are major stress cracks visible on both sides of the enclosure. It is interesting to note that there was no permanent damage to the electronics onboard NTBP#6. The PROM chip of the packet modem was bounced out of its socket, but otherwise everything was still functional.
No one has any video recorded during those last seconds, but it must have looked like NATO air strike footage from the Gulf War. It might have also been interesting to see the expression on the faces of the cows in that pasture! MOOO!!!
Updated 3 February 1997.
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