Wow. And when I say Wow, what I really mean is...W.O.W. Look at this picture. How much do you think it cost to take it? Launching the satellite, customising the carefully-controlled precision camera, getting the images back down to earth, and so on? $750, for the whole job. It was taken by a private citizen in the UK, and NASA is so impressed that it contacted him to find out how he did it.
It turns out that he did it using a consumer digital Canon camera, a high-altitude helium balloon, and a box wrapped up with duct tape - all launched from his back yard. Robert Harrison put the camera in the box, strapped the box to the balloon, and set it free. It rose to a height of 22 miles, reaching a point where it could take photos of the earth from so high up that you could see the curvature of its surface.
The camera, wrapped in loft insulation from a DIY store, is attached to a small computer that makes it take photos every five minutes, beamed to earth using a radio transmitter. When the balloon reaches the 22 mile point, it pops, because the air pressure outside drops to a point low enough that it cannot keep the helium inside.
Harrison then recaptures the camera, which falls gently to earth thanks to a parachute built into the box. The camera is equipped with a GPS that lets him pick it up from wherever it lands. Generally, it falls no less than 50 miles from where it left off.
Sadly, the original story published in the Daily Mail only gives us two of his stunning photos. I'd love to see a short video stringing together all of the shots that the camera took, in sequence. It brings to mind a project I saw in Make magazine, in which someone put a digital video camera in a home-made rocket. But 22 miles? Amazing. Can Canada beat Britain in amateur space photography? The challenge is out there, people. I'm off on a quick trip to Home Depot and Futureshop. See you later!
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets
That is just the coolest thing! bravo for a single man to show up an entire NASA team! yay! LOL
it's pretty awesome isn't it!