Here’s another query letter that didn’t find acceptance. It’s about weather balloons, a story I thought Smithsonian Magazine (external link) would be interested in. They weren’t. Still, at least you can tell what one writer’s approach is. How would you go about it?
They’ve been accused of spying, mistaken for UFOs, and their contents can be returned by mail, postage paid. What are they? Weather balloons. Twice a day, every day, 92 National Weather Service stations send these balloons skyward, some 70,000 launches a year. The radiosonde dangling beneath the balloon relays basic, vital forecasting elements: wind speed, barometric pressure, temperature, and relative humidity. Information from these balloons is currently woven into nearly every weather forecast. NOAA states that weather balloons and their payloads will be used for years to come. Since everyone has an interest in the weather, I think this subject would make for a fascinating feature article. One treatise puts it this way:
” The contributions of this relatively simple device [the radiosonde] to the late twentieth-century way of life can hardly be exaggerated. No other factor contributed more to the systematization of weather observations, which is beneficial to all who depend upon meteorological prediction. The . . . radiosonde directly affected agriculture and aeronautics, and its more sophisticated offspring made possible many of the marvels of the space age.”
The last Smithsonian article on weather balloons and their payloads appears to be “How’s the Weather Up There?” in Air and Space Smithsonian in 1999. The Invention and Development of the Radiosonde, published in 2002 by Smithsonian Institution Press, and quoted above, is the definitive work on weather balloon technology; I would greatly rely on it for its authoritative, accurate history. Along with a technology review, I would include weather balloon news stories; many colorful tales exist, from the Khrushchev administration’s spy accusations to the Roswell incident. I could also attend a live launch and report on it. E-mail me for a more complete query. Thank you!