Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A kid and his dad send a camera and iPhone to the edge of space

19

October

When I was a kid I was fascinated with model rockets. As a member of the model rocket club at Seminiole Middle School I remember reading the Estes Model Rockets catalog for hours, hoping to someday own the Estes SnapShot rocket with the built-in camera. Pictures taken from my own space craft? That seemed like the coolest thing on Earth (or not on Earth) to this 10-year-old.

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I didn't get that rocket but I knew other kids who did (and the photos were pretty bad!). And recently, after seeing a video of a boy and his dad who realized a similar dream with their homemade weather balloon all the memories came back and it made me smile.

In August, Luke Geissbuhler and his son Max, 7, rigged an HD video camera, an iPhone, some hand warmers, a parachute and a note from Max and bundled it all inside a polystyrene take-out container. They then attached it all to a simple weather balloon and launched their "space balloon" from a Newburgh, NY park. The "space balloon" ascended nearly 19 miles above the Earth, high enough to capture the curvature of Earth in the upper stratosphere. The video is stunning.

When the balloon finally burst and the craft began falling under parachute, the iPhone was used to track it. They found it about 30 miles north of where it was released, stuck in a tree. Despite being exposed to temperatures 60 degrees below zero, 100 mph winds and speeds of a 150 mph, the camera kept firing. Amazing.

It just goes to show that sometimes combining a little low-tech along with the high-tech can produce extraordinary results.

If you want to learn more about Max and his dad and their Brooklyn Space Program, go to their site. They're planning another "urban space exploration" mission and you can be part of it.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 9:21pm]

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