I helped launch two weather balloons this weekend. They were for Univeristy of Kansas and Kansas Wesylan University students. Some of these students will become science teachers and because of this experience, they will launch BalloonSats for their students.
However, after listening to the Balloon Boy story out of Fort Collins, I can't help but wonder if this is going to impact amateur near space exploration. All it takes is for one irresponsible person to negatively change public perceptions of amateur science in general and near space ballooning in particular. If as a result, access to near space ballooning is stopped or limited, students who's only dream is to launch experiments into space will be denied the opportunity of reaching this dream by taking their first step into near space.
Gawker is carrying an expose on Mr. Heene from a former friend and it doesn't cast a favorable light on him. I can understand Mr. Heene's concern if the balloon got away from him and he wanted to get it back. That however, does not excuse reporting that his son was onboard as a way to get state and federal government to track it. Claiming your son is onboard also reflects a lack of forethought. What are you going to say once the balloon is recovered (and it will) and its discovered no one was onboard?
I hope the public realizes Mr. Heene is not the face near space exploration.