Project Hibal

During the early part of the Cold War, information concerning nuclear testing was top secret. From the early 1960’s, a team working out of the Mildura Airport & Weather Complex, commenced a balloon launching and retrieval program that ran for over ten years. They supplied US authorities with unique data collected from the edge of space. A new book has just been released by one of the men who was involved in the early days of the program, John Sutcliff and he’s our guest in this episode.

Stunning images that we all remember – taken by amateur photographer Keith Mellberg

3 Replies to “Project Hibal”

  1. Vividly remember dawn trips out to the airport to watch the inflation and launching of these balloons -the actual ‘balloon’ was only a small blob at the end of the long uninflated envelope and as the ‘blob’ rose and encountered winds the crew had to try to keep under the lifting part as it gradually became bouyant and could lift off — this meant driving the payload around on some sort of trailer as I recall , to stop it dragging along the ground . A bit ‘keystone cops’ as the winds changed . In 1980 I was involved in inflating and launching a manned hydrogen balloon across Bass Strait -named, obviously “Bassoon” — it was widely reported.

    1. Thanks for the recollections Ross. I guess my dad was too busy with other things to take me out for a launch. Sounds like it was a memorable experience.

  2. We lived on Riverside Ave near the airport and the ‘balloons’ were a regular sight. My brother and his friend invented different things to bring them down! Ha Ha. A couple of times the payload landed in our block and people would come in to collect them. They were weirdly beautiful to watch in the early morning sunlight. Funny but I don’t think Mum ever took a photo of them.

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