The Western Lines

March 26, 2010

Amateur adventures in Near Space

Filed under: near space,Ralph Buttigieg — ralphbuttigieg @ 10:21 pm

This is a great story which shows you what an amateur explorer can do with minimal resources:

Robert Harrison launches his Canon camera into the Earth’s atmosphere with astounding results.

It’s not every day that your hobby becomes headline news, but when Robert Harrison decided to send a digital camera into the Earth’s atmosphere, that’s exactly what happened..

The amateur scientist was trying to get aerial shots of his home in West Yorkshire, England using a remote control helicopter, when he got the idea of launching a camera into the sky and subsequently into the edge of space. Since then he has sent several of his gadgets up to 35 kilometers above the Earth’s surface with stunning results, reports the BBC. “Just to be able to see the curvature of the earth, the earth’s atmosphere, the thin blue thin in which we live and breathe and of course the blackness of space — it’s unbelievable,” he said, adding with pride: “I’m chuffed to bits!”

Packing a standard Canon digital camera into a polystyrene (plastic) box, covered in duct tape, he uses a GPS tracking device linked to a radio transmitter (to find the device once it lands), wraps the contents in loft insulation bought from his local hardware store and attaches the box of goodies to a helium balloon. Launched from his back garden, the homemade contraption travels into the Earth’s atmosphere where it takes some really cool pictures before the balloon eventually bursts and the camera is parachuted safely back to Earth, where Harrison is waiting. Voila! Space mission complete.

His stunning pictures have even impressed the space agency NASA. “They had heard what was happening and wanted to know how I’d done it so cheaply,” the inventor told the UK’s Telegraph. “People think this is something that costs millions but it doesn’t.” In fact, each mission costs a budget-friendly $750, compared to the $450 million NASA spend on average per trip into space.

Harrison hopes that his success will inspire young people to get involved in science. “If I had done this at school, I would have remembered it forever and it’s well within the budgets of schools,” he said ever hopeful. For now though, he’s content with his achievement, in fact he’s pretty much over the moon

http://www.youtube.com/v/y2KuPe_J5X4&hl=en_US&fs=1&

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