Like many youngsters, and those young at heart, seven-year-old Max Geissbuhler and his dad dreamed of visiting space -- and armed with just a weather balloon, video camera, and an iPhone, in a way they did just that. The father and son team from Brooklyn managed to send their homemade spacecraft up nearly 19 miles, high into the stratosphere, bringing back perhaps the most impressive amateur space footage ever.
The duo housed the video camera, iPhone, and GPS equipment in a specially designed insulated casing, along with some hand-warmers and a note from Max requesting its safe return from whomever may find it after making it back to solid ground. All told, father and son spent eight months preparing for their homemade journey into space, in hopes of filming "the blackness beyond our earth".
Then, one day in August, Max and his father headed out to a nearby park to see their dreams realized. After attaching their equipment to a 19 inch weather balloon and switching on the camera, they watched as their simple craft disappear high into the sky.
After a little over an hour, the craft reached the stratosphere, 100 thousand feet overhead, capturing some incredible footage of space before the balloon popped and fell back towards earth. They found their spacecraft 25 miles away from where they had let it go, stuck up in a tree.
Although the camera's battery died some minutes before touching-down, the footage it returned is no short of impressive. And despite the fact that the craft didn't technically reach the boundaries of space, Max and his father are undoubtedly proud of their accomplishment.
Geissbuhler describes the experience on the video he uploaded to the Internet:
In August 2010, we set out to send a camera to space. The mission was to attach a HD video camera to a weather balloon and send it up into the upper stratosphere to film the blackness beyond our earth. Eventually, the balloon will grow from lack of atmospheric pressure, burst, and begin to fall.
It would have to survive 100 mph winds, temperatures of 60 degrees below zero, speeds of over 150 mph, and the high risk of a water landing. To retrieve the craft, it would need to deploy a parachute, descend through the clouds and transmit a GPS coordinate to a cell phone tower. Then we have to find it.
Needless to say, there are a lot of variables to overcome.
Just as the space-race of the 1960s was driven by a spirit of exploration and ingenuity, so too was the bold idea of Max and Luke Geissbuhler to film the darkness beyond our planet with their homemade spacecraft. And just as mankind was at once emboldened by the success of science and the realm of possibility was widened for an entire generation -- perhaps this father and son team can inspire others to follow their dreams, too, do-it-yourself style.
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