A Squirrel’s eye view – A Google Earth movie of the FS2 flight.

As a Flying Squirrel takes off, I wonder “where did it go?” and what does the view from up there look like. Absent a camera, the FS2 GPS Data and Google Earth can provide an approximation of what our brave/foolish squirrel saw from “up there”.

The video is best viewed in full screen and with HD 1080p quality Just click the icons (gear and the square) at the bottom right edge of the YouTube video to adjust these settings, after you press play.

The first step in making the movie was to create a Google Earth .KML file from the collected telemetry data. Once the KML file was created Google Earth can be used to make a movie of the flight with a few settings and a few more clicks. The movie below is the result.

The movie starts off with FS2 lifting off from Lucerne Dry Lake and heading to the east. The view is towards Johnson Valley Off Highway Vehicle recreation area. As if FS2 was thinking it was driving a car, it got to HWY 247 and turned hard right, heading south along Hwy 247. The view in the distance is the San Bernardino mountains looking towards Big Bear Lake. The snowcapped San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest peak in S. California can briefly be seen in the distance.

As FS2 climbs, in a slow right turn, towards the west a view of the San Gabriel Mountains can be seen in the distance.   Continuing the slow turn FS2 eventually settles on a course to the north for the rest of the flight. As the squirrel gains altitude, Victorville can be seen to the left side of the view and the mountains near Stoddard Wells OHV area are immediately below.

As FS2 heads back towards Hwy 247, the coffee cup icon shows the Slash-X Café, a favorite watering hole for off-road enthusiasts and perhaps a thirsty squirrel.

FS2 passes over Barstow at the I-15 & I-40 junction. Predictions, based on wind data, indicated that FS2 should turn East along I-40 for the rest of the flight. But our intrepid squirrel had other plans to join the Army. FS2 proceeded into Fort Irwin  National Training Center , the premier US Army training facility/base. The base occupies a huge swath of land and it is a “No-Go” zone for us to follow.

Our squirrel, perhaps bored with level flight and needing a thrill, decided to take a near death dive, plunging 8,360 feet (2548 meters)  followed by a near full altitude recovery. A less dramatic dive follows soon after and another near full recovery.  There were clouds building in the area at the time and it is possible the now neutral buoyant balloon cooled off under a cloud, contracting the balloon’s gas, causing a loss of lift (even a 1gram loss could account for this drop). The clouds may have also been creating down/up drafts.

Just before the final decent, Death Valley can be seen coming into view in the distance. Had the balloon remained buoyant another hour or two, it is likely it would have landed in the southern end of Death Valley and perhaps could have been recovered.


During the final decent, a large playa (Goldstone (Dry) Lake) with a runway can be seen to the left and a smaller playa towards the center of the screen. This area is part of the NASA Goldstone Deep Space  Communications Complex

The structures visible next to the small playa at the end of the video are one of the big dish antennas at the complex. Perhaps FS2 just needed to phone home?


73s de Don KJ6FO

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