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Students Take Pictures From Space On $150 Budget

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-can-see-my-house-from-here dept.

Education 215

An anonymous reader writes "Two MIT students have successfully photographed the earth from space on a strikingly low budget of $148. Perhaps more significantly, they managed to accomplish this feat using components available off-the-shelf to the average layperson, opening the door for a new generation of amateur space enthusiasts. The pair plan to launch again soon and hope that their achievements will inspire teachers and students to pursue similar endeavors."

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This is hardly anything new (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406493)

Groups like EOSS [eoss.org] have been doing this for at least 30 years, probably more. It's very common for a balloon launch to be a featured event in a ham radio conference. Their budgets per payload are similar, although they are able to do more technical work than featured in the MIT students work and often design their own radios, command devices, etc. None of this, though, is out of the range of a dedicated amateur. Note that there is a software-defined GPS [gpscreations.com] in development that might be the best way to get around the 20K foot altitude limit of consumer GPS devices. Its component cost is pretty low, despite the $495 cost charged for an assembled device at that site.

Re:This is hardly anything new (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406533)

Mmm? Keeping a camera functioning, then retrieving it, seems new.

Re:This is hardly anything new (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29407033)

It's not new. Plenty of other Universities have student projects that do the exact same thing. A quick google yields several. The only reason people care about this one is because it's at MIT. For some reason, mass media considers it newsworthy to report things that happen at MIT, even if MIT was not the first to do it. It's not as sexy to report "University of Kentucky students take pictures from space on $150 budget".

Re:This is hardly anything new (3, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407239)

It's not as sexy to report "University of Kentucky students take pictures from space on $150 budget".

Actually, I'd expect MIT students to do stuff like this. Podunk U students doing it would be more newsworthy.

Re:This is hardly anything new (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407051)

Yes, I've got to say congratulations to these kids. What they did seems very, very cool.

But what about this?:

âoeImagine if the art kids and the science kids in high school got together to do something like [a space launch].â

Sounds like a certain geeky somebody has a crush on a hottie art school somebody....
Don't worry, we've all been there.

Re:This is hardly anything new (4, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407229)

Well, that's an easy one. Use precisely guided rockets and explosives to carve her face on the surface of the moon....

Re:This is hardly anything new (5, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406563)

But this is in range of a middle school science teacher. That's the beauty of it! Once you break the $500 dollar limit, our underfunded schools in the US can't afford it. Heck, the elementary school my kids go to was happy to received a $200 check I won at a local race. For $150, these kinds of parts can be built using donated stuff. Many people have cell phones they no longer use. Many people have digital cameras they don't use. I can see doing this with some donated materials for $100. Plus the technology is there - no custom built ham radios, just "ordinary" technology we all use on a daily basis. It brings space down to ordinary kids. It would be great if these guys provided drawings and what control they usd for the camera and see if we can launch this at our school.

Re:This is hardly anything new (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406625)

This was in the range of a high-school teacher before. Indeed, there have been many high-school launches. Using donated parts doesn't really cut it. The camera has to be one of a few specific models that can run an Open Source download. The phone can't be just any one, unfortunately.

By the way, use of the phone at altitude violates FCC regulations and does a denial-of-service attack on cell sites because sites all of the way to the horizon are receiving that frequency.

Re:This is hardly anything new (3, Interesting)

Plunky (929104) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406735)

By the way, use of the phone at altitude violates FCC regulations and does a denial-of-service attack on cell sites because sites all of the way to the horizon are receiving that frequency.

I guess, if they thought of it, they could set the phone to not transmit unless it was under a set height and falling. That could save battery power too..

Re:This is hardly anything new (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406751)

Another thing they can do is use a part-15 or Amateur transmitter. Now that there is no Morse Code requirement, passing the lowest level of ham test is something you can do with a few hours study. And then you can have live TV from the balloon, and you can command it to cut down the balloon when you wish.

Re:This is hardly anything new (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29407455)

Right, that way they can screw up everyone's wifi from miles up. No thanks.
Ham radio is obsolete and worthless. It's dead, the corpse smells, and someone needs to bury it.

Re:This is hardly anything new (5, Insightful)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406695)

I think the hardware investment for my balloon project was about $300:

http://n1vg.net/balloon [n1vg.net]

I've got a new payload sitting here ready to go that's a lot cleaner and simpler, and has a 2-hour video capacity. Everything in the payload is off the shelf (granted, the radio/tracker is off my own shelf, it's one of my company's products) except for a DB9 connector and a few wires that took a few minutes to solder together. The housing is the top half of a magnum wine shipper, and all of the components (battery, radio, GPS) just wedge in between the foam pieces intended to hold the neck of the bottle. The camcorder is held in with rubber bands:

http://n1vg.net/images/payload1.jpg [n1vg.net]
http://n1vg.net/images/payload2.jpg [n1vg.net]
http://n1vg.net/images/payload3.jpg [n1vg.net]

The acrylic window that goes over the end took me about 3 minutes to fabricate on a CNC milling machine and could be easily and cheaply replicated.

It'd be cheaper to build a transmit-only version of this system, but having a receiver lets you do useful stuff like control a cutdown device. This particular payload doesn't have one yet, but it can be as simple as a 1-watt resistor that you drive at 3 watts for several seconds to melt through a Nylon or Spectra cord. Maybe an extra buck worth of hardware.

I might launch this thing as soon as next month if I can find the time. Possibly from the Mojave desert again, or maybe from the Cuyama Valley, a little closer to home. Ground crew and chase team volunteers are always welcome.

At some point I'd like to have a ready-to-fly kit to sell at a reasonable price to schools, along with enough instructional materials to get them started. I just don't have the time for it right now.

Re:This is hardly anything new (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407327)

chase team volunteers are always welcome.

How far might it go? I imagine the wind could push it a long way away, but are we talking 10s or 100s of km? The former is manageable, if it's the latter I'd have to be much more careful or it'd end up in the sea (Great Britain isn't that big).

Someone at my university attached a glider to a weather balloon, let it go to 80km altitude and had programmed the glider to find it's way back to "base" using GPS. I don't think it's online, unfortunately.

Re:This is hardly anything new (5, Interesting)

Kira-Baka (463765) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406607)

Some people provide better images [natrium42.com] too. The site I've linked even provides videos.

Re:This is hardly anything new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406671)

From that site.
Q:How much did it cost?
A:The system that is presented is a little over-engineered for historical reasons as well as for future expansion and test purposes. It's possible to build a system for $500 with just a cellphone link and a microcontroller, but make sure that coverage is good where you intend to launch and use a good cellphone antenna.

So. No idea how much it cost, but it was clearly significantly over $500 if he considered $500 low-end.

So. Point by other commenter about the MIT launch still stands.

Re:This is hardly anything new (1)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406705)

Nice pictures and video over a lot more cash (possible to build for $500, they say) vs. under $150, I think the $150 wins, because of price alone.

Re:This is hardly anything new (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406677)

Agreed. High-altitude balloon launches are actually, surprisingly, fairly common. If you visit the second hyperlink and click on the "other launches" sidebar link, you can find links to other groups who have done balloon launches in the past -- high altitude photography is nothing new. I think what's really striking about what these guys have done though is that they took all of their pictures for $150. The radio modems that we use for several of our GPS projects (non-flight) that require communication between a rover and a basestation cost several hundred dollars alone, and CDMA modems cost several thousands of dollars. Give them credit for creative problem-solving. I wouldn't have thought to do what they did. Also, their list of hardware is... ridicuously short and simple-looking -- makes me want to try it myself.

Re:This is hardly anything new (1)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406809)

Hi Bruce! You going to DCC this month?

The altitude limit isn't universal, and seems to be dependent on how the manufacturer reads the regs. Off the top of my head, I know the Garmin GPS 18 and 18x (with current firmware) and the Trimble Copernicus work at over 100,000'. As far as I know, nothing from SiRF does unless you have special firmware, and good luck getting those guys to even talk to you. Here's a table with some test results:

http://showcase.netins.net/web/wallio/GPSrcvrsvs60kft.htm [netins.net]

I use the GPS 18x myself, but that's mostly because I stock them and in Garmin binary mode I get high resolution Z velocity data which I can use to monitor ascent rate. You can get by with something lighter and cheaper.

Scott
N1VG

Re:This is hardly anything new (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406919)

I will be in Norway, so I'm missing DCC. Thanks for the list. David Rowe has made progress on the new Codec initiative I was promoting. See this [sourceforge.net] .

Re:This is hardly anything new (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406831)

but you really don't need GPS until the device comes down anyway.. that was more about finding your pictures and you still have 20,000 feet to chase the balloon in.

Re:This is hardly anything new (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407253)

Um, I think some people want to track how high their balloon went so they can work on improving their fine control. Some people want to push for the highest altitude possible while others want to aim for a specific altitude (for instance, there's a project trying to aim for the right jet-stream altitude to allow their balloon to travel across the Atlantic ocean). Both of those situations end up being well over the altitude limit imposed by many of the GPS manufacturers.

More like http://r337arts.com! (1)

The_Duck271 (1494641) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406537)

Anyway, pretty neat. I thought at first they were talking about a rocket, which I thought must cost much more than $150 to get 20 miles up. But I guess a balloon gets you much higher for much cheaper. Not as cool as a rocket though. I think really big amateur rocket launches go about 10 miles up? There are some impressive videos on youtube.

NOT from space (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406567)

20 miles up is very high, but it is NOT space. The edge of space is more like 65 miles.

Re:NOT from space (2, Interesting)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406603)

Students from Cambridge University have been doing this for a couple of years now.

Re:NOT from space (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407251)

The boundary of space was 65 miles (100km) but NASA pushed it higher after 150 miles, mostly out of a fit of pique following SpaceShipOne's successful claim on the X-Prize.

In any event, 20 miles is pretty impressive, but its still not Space, although, as Sarah would say, you can see it from there...

62mi / 100km (3, Informative)

imtheguru (625011) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406771)

According to the Federation Internationale D'espace, space begins at 62 miles, about 100 kilometers. Often referred to as the 62 mile club.

Cheers.

Re:62mi / 100km (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407381)

According to the Federation Internationale D'espace, space begins at 62 miles, about 100 kilometers. Often referred to as the 62 mile club.

Is that supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Mile high club? [wikipedia.org] I suspect that membership of this one is considerably harder to achieve ;-)

Re:NOT from space (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406805)

100 km (62.x miles) is where NASA considers space to start for purposes of being labeled an astronaut. That's where the Space X prize boundary was, I believe for that reason.

Re:NOT from space (3, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406877)

Correct. A balloon can't be in space, simply because there must be atmosphere for the balloon to be lighter than, or it can't rise. Never mind that they tend to expand and explode before they reach that theoretical height...

Normally, what we consider the start of space is around 10 times as far out as the record for helium balloons. Even hydrogen balloons can get nowhere near space. If you could make a balloon filled with hard vacuum, you would be able to almost, but not quite, reach space.

So the correct tag for this article is !space

Re:NOT from space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29407355)

If you could make a balloon filled with hard vacuum,

How do you fill something with nothing?

Damage on landing? (3, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406569)

Their site mentioned that the antenna of the phone got embedded in the ground, and it's not clear from the pictures if they had a parachute on it at all, or if it was just too small.

-jcr

Re:Damage on landing? (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406617)

What a euphemism: "It didn't crash-land, it just rapidly embedded into the ground." Better copyright that before the airlines use it.

Re:Damage on landing? (1)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406747)

It's great that they were able to use a cheap phone for this, but it's worth noting that many (probably most, in my experience) GPS receivers will NOT work properly above 60,000 feet. Some stop reporting their position until they come back down, some just report the wrong altitude, and some lock up completely. As long as you don't get one in that last category it's usually good enough for recovery, but you really need to do some research first if you want accurate tracking through the whole flight.

And ham gear doesn't need to be expensive. You can use a $20 surplus radio from eBay (I used a Radio Shack HTX-202) and a tracker kit (the radio modem part) is under $40.

Re:Damage on landing? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407037)

It's great that they were able to use a cheap phone for this, but it's worth noting that many (probably most, in my experience) GPS receivers will NOT work properly above 60,000 feet.

That's because of US regulations, not for any real technical reason. Receivers have been hacked to remove the limitation, something probably well within the capabilities of MIT students.

Re:Damage on landing? (3, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407183)

And far beyond the scope of the project.

The whole point was to do this without any sort of hacking, it's all off the shelf parts that a 3rd grade teacher could put together. It was the whole point of the exercise.

Re:Damage on landing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29407073)

many (probably most, in my experience) GPS receivers will NOT work properly above 60,000 feet.

And that experience is based on launching high-altitude balloons, piloting planes 2x higher than commercial jets, or writing software for a GPS device company?

99 Luftballoons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406579)

Obligatory:

      You and I in a little toy shop
      Buy a bag of balloons with the money we've got.
      Set them free at the break of dawn
      'Til one by one, they were gone.

Re:99 Luftballoons (2, Informative)

32771 (906153) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406769)

Not anymore my friend, not anymore. Not since the nineties at least.

Oh and by the way:

"You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we've got.
Set them free at the break of dawn
'Til one by one, they were gone.
Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message, Something's out there.
Floating in the summer sky.
99 red balloons go by."

Bugs in the software, eh? Well, they may still have them. Maybe it is still a relevant song.

I never knew there was an english version:

http://www.eightyeightynine.com/music/nena-99luftballoons.html [eightyeightynine.com]

It has been toned down quite a bit.

Project Icarus? Unimaginative latecomers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406587)

MITards

http://space.1337arts.com/ [1337arts.com]

ACME (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406593)

My ACME Slingshot Cam may actually have a chance. I'm inspired again.

... they used a cellphone GPS? (2, Interesting)

popo (107611) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406613)

"The cell phone was secured to the camera and constantly reported its GPS location via text message."

Sure the GPS part of the phone would work, but is anyone skeptical of the SMS bit? How could this possibly have been within tower range?

Re:... they used a cellphone GPS? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406643)

Do you mean from space? It didn't have to actually work in space, only close to landing time.

Re:... they used a cellphone GPS? (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406653)

It was in line-of-sight to the tower. Most of the signal loss is from obstacles on the ground. When you have line-of-sight, you can go very far.

That's why use of cell phones at altitude is illegal. They illuminate thousands of cell cites all of the way to the horizon, and probably lock users out of a frequency on every one of those sites. It's sort of a denial-of-service attack.

Re:... they used a cellphone GPS? (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407403)

That's why use of cell phones at altitude is illegal.

Which makes this inexpensive project a bad idea for middle-school science teachers to start doing all over the place, or a cheap way to take down a cell network.

Re:... they used a cellphone GPS? (3, Informative)

JorDan Clock (664877) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406655)

From their website:

The GPS cell phone we used to track the location of our vehicle lost reception soon after launch (at an elevation of ~2500 feet).

So I'm guessing it gave it's location up to 2500 feet, disappeared, then reappeared when it went below about 2500 feet.

Re:... they used a cellphone GPS? (2, Informative)

click2005 (921437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406669)

It would only need to be when its nearing the ground.

Re:... they used a cellphone GPS? (1)

lastomega7 (1060398) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406685)

It only needs to report its location accurately when it falls to the ground for retrieval purposes. Then perhaps the texts from the out-of-range altitudes would be saved on the phone as unsent messages?

Safety? (2, Interesting)

Noodlenose (537591) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406615)

While I love the low-cost aspect of this project, I am worried about the safety aspects: No air traffic control registering, and how did they prevent the bloody thing from hitting another human on the way down?

NN

Re:Safety? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406663)

how did they prevent the bloody thing from hitting another human on the way down?

"Blasted insurance company says my meteor insurance doesn't cover the hole in my face because the object was artificial. Dirty fine-print lawyer rats!"
   

Re:Safety? (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406703)

You can inform the FAA to issue a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) and you can get your flight permitted, all of the ham groups know how to do this. You can get a fine for not informing the FAA if your payload is over a certain weight.

The terminal velocity of falling objects varies according to the weight of the object and the air resistance. A foam cooler and some ropes and torn balloon falling from altitude don't go very fast. Note that their descent took 40 minutes, and it was probably faster in thin air than thick.

There was an interesting mythbusters on falling bullets. They couldn't get much force out of them.

Re:Safety? (3, Insightful)

Oswald (235719) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406823)

You can inform the FAA to issue a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) and you can get your flight permitted, all of the ham groups know how to do this. You can get a fine for not informing the FAA if your payload is over a certain weight.

You can, and you should, provide this information to the FAA. Rest assured, however, that no meaningful action will be taken in response. It's all based on the big sky theory (which, it should be noted, has a pretty good record in this matter).

Re:Safety? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406997)

There was an interesting mythbusters on falling bullets. They couldn't get much force out of them.

Only if they are shot at a 90Â angle. Idiot assholes who shoot "into the air" hardly ever fire straight up. Falling bullets have killed many people [lubbockonline.com] , and one guy got a 20 years sentence for manslaughter [coloradoan.com] .

Re:Safety? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406803)

how did they prevent the bloody thing from hitting another human on the way down?

Probability?

Re:Safety? (1)

The_Duck271 (1494641) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406861)

Human heads cover quite a small percentage of the earth's surface; it would be rather remarkable if the balloon hit a person.

Re:Safety? (1)

FailedTheTuringTest (937776) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407163)

It sure would be remarkable! People would be remarking about it on all of the major TV news networks!

Re:Safety? (1)

pete-wilko (628329) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407427)

Not sure who modded you as troll - fair enough question which I was thinking of too - and the responses shed light on the situation. Less so about the falling, more about it operating in travelled airspace (admittedly taking up a v.v.v. small part of said space).

Already done by spanish teenagers (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406641)

I thought I read it on /. this summer...
http://teslabs.com/meteotek08/2009/03/07/llancament-tot-un-exit/

20 miles up is NOT space (2, Informative)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406683)

This is a fairly standard high-altitude photography method, that is just being hyped up. You attached a camera to a helium balloon. Whoop-de-fucking-doo. Doesn't have anything to do with space.

Re:20 miles up is NOT space (0, Offtopic)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406707)

Wow damburger! Thanks for grounding us all in reality. It must be hard for you to read about these accomplishments from that easy chair in your parent's basement. Pop another beer and keep commenting. Thanks for all of the hard work. Tell us about one of your projects.

Re:20 miles up is NOT space (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407075)

OK. I'm working on a satellite. One that will a) really go into space and b) costs a shitload more than a weather balloon.

Re:20 miles up is NOT space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29407441)

Ah, familliar /. attitude...

He`s right, though, they did nothing special or newsworthy.

Re:20 miles up is NOT space (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406819)

From TFA: "Photographs from near-space"

Re:20 miles up is NOT space (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406847)

TFS: Students Take Pictures From Space.
TFA Title: MIT Students Take Pictures from Space on $150 Budget.

You were saying?

Re:20 miles up is NOT space (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407339)

Journalists exaggerate?

You're surprised?

THIS is how it should be done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29407171)

Internet classic site: http://www.rocketryonline.com/rolpresents/index.php?site=gbr

These amateur guys (although rich amateurs...) have kicked seriously ass. If you want to see best of amateur rocketry to space, check out the site. Especially the videos of launches.

Great Idea (1)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406719)

Great idea! Now I'm thinking about more balloons and a DSLR with a circular polarizing filter...

Re:Great Idea (2, Interesting)

schon (31600) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406913)

Now I'm thinking about more balloons and a DSLR with a circular polarizing filter...

Already been done. [flickr.com]

Twice. [flickr.com] :)

Groundbreaking? (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406727)

>Yeh stressed the groundbreaking nature of their work

Ah, best not tell him that the BBC science show "Bang Goes the Theory" did exactly that a few weeks back. Photo's on the way up looked great, and it must have been fun tracking and then retrieving it. I think it would make a great sunday activity.

Re:Groundbreaking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406933)

"Bang Goes the Theory" is reasonably entertaining/informative for the general public, but they don't do anything new.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Balloon 1.0 (or if they have, I missed it)

http://vpizza.org/~jmeehan/balloon/

Re:Groundbreaking? (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407111)

>"Bang Goes the Theory" is reasonably entertaining/informative for the general public, but they don't do anything new.

Unlike the boys from MIT, they don't claim that it's new.

Simpsons did it Simpsons did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406729)

Cambridge University did something similar. http://science.slashdot.org/story/06/09/19/2312240/Space-On-a-Shoestring?art_pos=31 [slashdot.org]

Re:Simpsons did it Simpsons did it (1)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406799)

They did it for 12.5 times the budget the other students did it for also.

I browse Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406753)

... for this kind of story.

Re:I browse Slashdot... (1)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407195)

I don't. Balloons can't make it into LEO. 20 miles up isn't space. Don't say it's space.

Re:I browse Slashdot... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407423)

... for this kind of story.

Yeah, I liked it as well. Inspiring stuff, better than the usual "Apple were dicks to some bandwagon-jumping iPhone developers" and similar IT stuff.

Yawn (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406765)

This has been done numerous times.

But speaking of low cost space flight. I've seen lots of tricks used to protect the equipment from being burned up in the atmosphere... have there been any attempts to exploit a reaction with the earths atmosphere and harness the resulting energy?

Re:Yawn (2, Informative)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407017)

Well, somehow, it is already being exploited..

It is used to *reduce* the overall kinetic energy of a re-entering bolide so that the acceleration (and hereby force) to which the payload is submitted at impact doesn't damage said payload.

And also.. the overall energy dissipated during atmospheric re-entry cannot exceed the amount of energy used to put the object wherever - and at whatever velocity - it was before re-entry. So if you are worried about energy expenditure.. just don't launch !

--Ivan

needless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406785)

there are enough photos on the web, no need to waste money -.-

$50 GPS cell phone? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406789)

Are these guys being a liiiiiiiitle economical with the truth here.

I realise that mobile phones are dropping in price all the time, but to buy a phone from a store that has GPS built in ...... for $50? Did they accidentally drop a "0" off the end of that price?

Re:$50 GPS cell phone? (3, Informative)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406829)

No, I found the same cell phone for $40 at many online places, it took 30 seconds to do a search.

Re:$50 GPS cell phone? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406905)

Oh, right. Not new then. When the article said "off the shelf" I just assumed all their stuff was store-bought. I stand corrected.

Re:$50 GPS cell phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406839)

Google search brought up a craigslist post with one for $49

So $50 seems quite realistic especially if they had a class of people looking for the best deal.

http://tampa.craigslist.org/hil/mob/1360316241.html

Re:$50 GPS cell phone? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407413)

All phones manufactured in the US since 2000 have GPS in them, it is required by law for 911 tracking purposes.

It also never turns off, though you can "disable", which basically just tells the cell phone company to stop monitoring the signal it is continuing to send out.

The cheapest phone that will allow you to use GPS tracking services (which tend to require extra software on the phone) like Instamapper is the Motorola iDEN pre-paid phone, which can be had for $40 at any Target or Best Buy. [instamapper.com]

You were saying?

Re:$50 GPS cell phone? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407475)

Hrmmm... Preview is my friend.

Obligatory (0)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406867)

Cost of balloon and helium? ~$20
Cost of space cam? ~$150
Having FAA and FCC investigators show up at your dormroom [wikipedia.org] ? Priceless

Really, one would think MIT students would know better.

Re:Obligatory (3, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407089)

Having FAA and FCC investigators show up at your dormroom? Priceless
Really, one would think MIT students would know better.

If everyone actually followed all the regulations we have nowadays, no one smaller than Boeing would ever get anything done.

here you go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406889)

http://www.amazon.com/Boost-Mobile-Pay-2dAs-2dYou-2dGo-Phone-28i290-29/dp/B001T9CSYW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1252870081&sr=8-1

High School Students got better photos for $100 (4, Informative)

nunoloureiro (1162373) | more than 5 years ago | (#29406915)

Some High School Students from Bilbao, Spain, did the same thing earlier this year for less than $100. Looking at the photos, it seems they got better shots.

Story here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5005022/Teens-capture-images-of-space-with-56-camera-and-balloon.html [telegraph.co.uk]

Photos here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/meteotek08/sets/ [flickr.com]

Re:High School Students got better photos for $100 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29406961)

No. The Spanish group's camera alone cost $100 (read the title carefully). That article doesn't talk about the costs of the GPS transmitter they used nor the helium nor the balloon. $150 is amazing.

Re:High School Students got better photos for $100 (2, Informative)

chocobanana (974767) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407079)

Yep, here's more coverage from Wired: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/03/kids-send-a-cam/ [wired.com] You may need to dig a bit in the Flickr slideshow but the amazing photos are sure there.

Re:High School Students got better photos for $100 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29407125)

The pictures themselves show a $78 reciept for 2 components and a $42 customs decliaration

(they got a heck of a discount on that GPS module). Those parts alone total $120 and don't include the baloons itself, any of the construction nor the camea itself. The students may have paid less then $100 for the parts they needed that couldn''t be had from the school, but the actual cost of the project would have exceeded that.

If you have a cell phone attached (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29407129)

Why not just leave it up and have it transmit the pictures to you. This way there is no need to retrieve it later to get your pictures.

Re:If you have a cell phone attached (1)

phozz bare (720522) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407329)

Because the only thing attaching the cell phone to the camera is duct tape.
Because the battery will run out before a tenth of the pictures are transmitted.
Because the balloon will pop.
Because the little heating bag preventing the electronics from dying of cold will run out of juice within a couple hours.
Because nothing you can hack together at $150 is something that you will be able to "just leave up" in the stratosphere.

Do you need more or can I stop now?

Re:If you have a cell phone attached (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407443)

Probably because you'd jam the cell network by hogging a frequency on tons of towers at once, since you have almost unobstructed line-of-site to half the hemisphere, which is illegal, and also why your phone has "Airplane Mode".

Absolutely Beautiful (1)

Giga-Byter (670519) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407225)

In my opinion, it's an incredible feat!

But most of all I'm amazed of how they've been able to successfully retrieve the device after its landing. It could have landed in a sea, or even in another country. It also could have been disintegrated before it had reached the ground.

P.S. Because of such enthusiasts we can be certainly sure that NASA isn't fooling us: there are no elephants out there and the Earth is round indeed.

Re:Absolutely Beautiful (1)

slashnik (181800) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407429)

But it has GPS, a couple of servo controlled fins and a PIC micro controller and it could fly home to your back yard.

I remember when we were going into outer space... (1)

ysth (1368415) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407291)

From the ireport article:

At a time when budget cuts are forcing NASA to get cut back on spending, and at a time when high school science teachers struggling to capture the interests of students, low-budget space launches could be just what we all need.

I think Laurie Anderson said it best:

I remember when we were going into outer space. I remember when the President said we were going to look for things in outer space. And I remember the way the astronauts talked and the way everybody was watching because there was a chance that they would burn up on the launching pad or that the rocket would take off from Cape Canaveral and land in Fort Lauderdale five minutes later by mistake. And now we're not even trying to get _that_ far. Now it's more like the bus. Now it's more like they go up just high enough to get a good view. They aim the camera back down. They don't aim the camera up. And then they take pictures and come right back and develop them. That's what it's like now. Now that's what it's like.

A decade of space terrorism has just begun... (1)

Rusty pipe (1471075) | more than 5 years ago | (#29407373)

Common kids, this was not even near space.

!nearspace

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