I like the Brits. A story in the Toronto Sun reports:
…that a British hobbyist could teach NASA a thing or two about taking photos from space – and NASA is apparently willing to listen.
Robert Harrison rigged a Cannon camera to a helium balloon to take photos from the edge of space – images that NASA admits would have cost the space agency tens of millions of dollars to capture. The whole project cost Harrison about $765.
“A guy phoned up who worked for NASA who was interested in how we took the pictures,” Harrison told The Times U.K. “He wanted to know how the hell we did it. He thought we used a rocket. They said it would have cost them millions of dollars.”
The Icarus Project, as Harrison has dubbed his ongoing experiments, features a point-and-shoot camera, a parachute and a GPS system all attached to a balloon. The balloon ascends up to 35 km before it pops, sending the camera floating gently back to the ground below. The GPS allows Harrison to track it to where it lands. From his home computer, the GPS also allows him to track the camera’s progress as it climbs towards space – snapping photos every five minutes before switching off to sleep. The camera is wrapped in insulation so it continues to function in the frigid -60 C temperatures high in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The results can be seen on Harrison’s website – robertharrison.org.
The curve of the Earth is clearly seen, as is the thickness of the atmosphere and the inky expanses of space beyond. “We were sat in a local pub (when reviewing the first photos) and I was gobsmacked,” Harrison told The Times. “Seeing the highest pictures was amazing – that’s a lifetime achievement.” He continues to work on expanding his project to include such features as a swivelling mount for the camera to capture different angles.