Monday, September 21, 2009

Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh - Space camera balloon Project

Ingenious idea of two MIT students Oliver Yeh and Justin Lee who took pictures of the Earth curvature by using a digital camera lifted up by a helium-filled weather balloon and tracked down by a GPS mobile phone attached to the flying device.
Their idea developed as follows: a $150 Canon camera (purchased on e-bay) should be launched into the stratosphere by a $20 latex weather balloon filled with helium (~$30). Regarding the fact that the temperatures go down to -50 degrees, the batteries and electronics fail working but to overcome this problem the students closed the camera inside a styrofoam cooler and some handwarmers were placed tightly around the equipment to maintain it functioning. Another tricky job was to find a way to control the position of the balloon during its trip. Usually the flight tracking devices rely on expensive and heavy GPS modems but the MIT guy figured out an much more inexpensive and simple solution by securing the balloon with a $50 Motorola Boost GPS-equipped mobile phone whose task was to report the GPS coordinates via text message. The ballon was deployed on 2th of September 2009 in Sturbrigde, Massachusetts and it was eye-viewed for 1 hour. Most probably about four hours later the balloon poped due to very low pressure and the parachuted equipment landed back on Earth in Worcester where it send its GPS position.
The experimental device travelled up to 17 miles.


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