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You may think that scientific ballooning combines the gentle joy of a hot air balloon ride with the excitement of discovery and adventure. While the last 60+ years of scientific balloon flights operated by NASA have discovered a great many things, the process of getting a telescope off the ground and into the stratosphere is anything but gentle, fraught with challenges, heartbreak, and exhilaration. I will discuss my own experiences as the manager of the FIREBall-2 UV balloon telescope, which successful flew on September 22nd, 2018, and the larger balloon program in general, as well as describe why this little known branch of NASA is an important and valuable way to make discoveries.
I will describe the telescope, instrument, and flight of the Faint Intergalactic medium Redshifted Emission Balloon (FIREBall-2). FIREBall-2 is a UV multi-object spectrograph fed by a 1 meter parabola mirror designed as a joint project between NASA and CNES. The instrument was designed to observe 4 pre-selected fields with a MOS and uses a UV optimized delta-doped EMCCD as the detector. The telescope flew on September 22, 2018 from Fort Sumner, NM, as part of the fall CSBF balloon campaign. The telescope collected data for several night hours before being cut down. I will describe the testing, flight, and hardware performance, along with some preliminary results and steps for the future.