Grand Canyon From Space
Screenshot by author, from YouTube
In 2013, some friends attached a GoPro camera to a weather balloon, as was the fashion in those days. Encased in a 3D printed body, they drove to their launch site, 20 miles west of the Grand Canyon. The camera captured its journey on the way up, from above the team’s heads:
…to the edge of space itself:
And then the weather balloon burst, like weather balloons always do when they, like Icarus, reach too high into the sky. After climbing upwards for 87 minutes, the camera was tumbling back to earth, as planned.
That was supposed to be the end of it. The crew finds the camera, looks at the video they managed to capture from the edge of space, and then uploads a cool video to youtube. All that happened, but with a hitch: the team couldn’t find the camera when it fell. Two years later, a hiker found the rubble. Here’s how Bryan Chan, who launched the camera, explained it in a post on Reddit:
We planned our June 2013 launch at a specific time and place such that the phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage. The problem was that the coverage map we were relying on (looking at you, AT&T) was not accurate, so the phone never got signal as it came back to Earth, and we never heard from it. We didn’t know this was the problem at the time – we thought our trajectory model was far off and it landed in a signal dead zone (turns out the model was actually quite accurate). The phone landed ~50 miles away from the launch point, from what I recall. It’s a really far distance considering there’s hardly any roads over there!
TWO YEARS LATER, in a twist of ironic fate, a woman who works at AT&T was on a hike one day and spotted our phone in the barren desert. She brings it to an AT&T store, and they identify my friend’s SIM card. We got the footage and data a few weeks later!
Watch the recovered video below, and marvel at the recent time capsule of our planet’s surface:
read on at Popular Science