$148 won?t even buy you a new 16GB iPod Nano. So when we found out that two MIT students were able to take that small sum and build a functional space camera, we were incredibly impressed.
Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh were able to devise a low budget mechanism for space photography using off-the-shelf components: weather balloons, helium, styrofoam cooler, handwarmers, cell phone, and camera. The space photography balloon they built was launched on September 2nd, reached an altitude of 18 miles, and captured some amazing photographs.
Locating and retrieving a camera after a near-space launch is a difficult task. Typically, weather balloons are tracked using GPS radio modems which are heavy, cost in the thousands of dollars, and often require complex hardware configurations. In lieu of purchasing a radio modem for their space-bound camera, Lee and Yeh opted to use a $50 GPS-equipped cell phone. The cell phone was secured to the camera and constantly reported its GPS location via text message.?