Update: NASA Balloon telescope found in Texas

by Nickalas Tabbert

The University of Minnesota balloon telescope missing in Texas was reported to be found Wednesday night.

Shaul Hanany, a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy overseeing the project, received confirmation from Copeland Trucking, local Dallas authorities and NASA the trailer had been found.

It was found near a truck stop not far from where the cab was found, said Matt Hodson, media relations associate at the University, in an email.

In all likelihood, the equipment is undamaged, Hodson said.  The seal for the equipment had not been broken. 

More details will be available Thursday after the trailer is delivered to NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas.

A team of researchers were waiting for the truck that was supposed at 8 a.m. Monday, the Star Tribune said.

Intended for NASA-funded projects, the balloon-borne telescope will to be used to measure the universe's most minute fluctuations.

The balloon costs more than $500,000 and has been the project of University researchers for over six years, said University researcher Asad Aboobaker.

Minneapolis-based trucking company Copeland Trucking tracked the truck driver's cell phone to a truck stop just outside of Dallas before the signal disappeared, the Tribune said.  A second phone belonging to the driver was found nearby at a fast-food restaurant.

The driver of the truck said the vehicle was stolen Monday from a Dallas motel, according to Hutchins police.  Neither the driver nor the trucking company reported the theft to Hutchins police, NBC 5 Dallas-Forth Worth said.

The telescope is likely to be tested and calibrated in Texas before being shipped to Antarctica, where it would fly, by balloon, more than 100,000 feet in the air, the Tribune said.  The equipment detects tiny traces of energy waves – possibly from the universe’s Big Bang – and levels of polarized dust.