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Photograph The Earth From Space

Photograph The Earth From Space

Forget fancy weather balloons and hightech devices, you can take picture of space for less than 150 dollars...

Two students from MIT have devised a hack that allowed them to take pictures of the Earth from space, using a 150 dollars worth of off-the-shelf-components.

On Sept 2nd, Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh, sent their low cost picture-shooting balloon 17.5 miles high, into near-space. Using GPS to track its locations, they found the rig 5 hours later, 20 miles from the launch site.

The balloon was able to travel high enough to capture the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space.


Here’s how they did it:

Justin and Oliver took a Canon A470 (second hand from Amazon) and installed the CHDK open source software that enables the camera to shoot continuous pictures at set intervals. They set the camera to take pictures every 5 seconds at a 1/800 second shutter speed. 8GB of flash memory was all it took to chronicle the whole 5 journey from launch to retrieval.

Next, the GPS tracking device, this comprised of:

  • Motorola i290 ‘Boost Mobile’ pre paid with internet and GPS capability – set up with Accutracking to constantly report its location)
  • AA-battery cell phone charger – to sustain power during 5 hours of flight
  • Energizer lithium batteries rated to operate at temperatures are low as -40F – power both the charger and the camera
  • An old antenna from a wireless router – They found that this was not needed, the phone simply reports its location after landing


To protect the device from the -67 degrees Fahrenheit (-55 Celsius) temperature of space, the team housed everything in a styrofoam beer cooler and used Coleman disposable hand warmers to keep the electronics warm – one pressed against the camera and one pressed against the cell phone.

Fortunately, they were lucky enough to have a parachute lying around, however they suggested using a trash bag as a cheap alternative.

Here’s a list of the components and costs…


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  1. Pretty Sweet

  2. righteous… very cool

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