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A huge NASA balloon loaded with a telescope painstakingly built to scan the sky at wavelengths invisible to the human eye crashed in the Australian outback Thursday, destroying the astronomy experiment and just missing nearby onlookers, according to Australian media reports.
"Today was a terrible day for a lot of people," wrote Eric Bellm, a graduate astronomy student at the UC Berkeley, in a blog chronicling the science mission. "For the NCT team, we've poured our hearts into this instrument for years. It was an almost unfathomable shock to find ourselves cleaning up the wreckage of our gondola rather than watching it lift off towards space."