Father and son launch video camera into outer space


October 14, 2010

An image of the earth and the blackness of outer space, obtained by Luke and Max Geissbuhler

An image of the earth and the blackness of outer space, obtained by Luke and Max Geissbuhler

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It’s an inspiring story that reminds you how the wonders of scientific exploration aren’t just limited to research institutions with big budgets... in August of this year, Luke Geissbuhler and his seven year-old son Max attached an HD video camera to a weather balloon and set it loose. They proceeded to obtain footage of the blackness of outer space, 19 miles (30 km) above the surface of the earth. Needless to say, there was a little more to it than just tying a piece of string around a camcorder.

Luke and Max created a miniature space capsule for their Brooklyn Space Program experiment, using a food take-out container. It contained the camera (with a peep hole for its lens), hand warmers to keep its battery warm, a “please return if you find this” note, and an iPhone, so that they could use its GPS to locate the capsule once it landed. The whole thing was coated in foam, to absorb the energy of a high-speed landing, and attached to a parachute.

The pair launched the balloon from Newburgh, New York, near their home in Brooklyn. Over the next 72 minutes, it proceeded to climb to over 100,000 feet (30,480 meters), encountering 100mph (161km/h) winds and temperatures of -60F(-51C) along the way. Due to the lack of pressure at such high altitudes, the balloon eventually expanded beyond its capacity and burst, sending the capsule on a 150mph (241km/h) parachute-assisted fall back to earth.

Amazingly, it landed just 30 miles (48 km) from its lift-off point, in the middle of the night. Using its external LED lamp to locate it visually, the Geissbuhlers found the capsule hanging from its parachute in a tree.

The project involved eight months of research and testing, but as you can see in the video below, the results were well worth the effort.

Via Pharyngula

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Fantastic. If I had a hat to take off, It\'d be for these two. We need more of this type of stuff and more Teddy bears, if we\'re already on the subject.


This baloon only reached the stratosphere, not space. A balloon is limited in its maximum altitude by atmospheric buoyancy, they cannot reach space. This isn\'t slashdot or a daily newspaper, we don\'t need sensationalist headlines.

Facebook User

amazing project! on a seven year old kid, this is the kind of seed that most probably will spark the curiosity that made man reach for the stars. Kudos for dad and the school behind it.


This is nothing New I have been doing this for over 22 years now, we recently for a group of several hundred Boy scouts! check out the video at, or a flight for several thousand High School Students at, the students surrounding the launch site are the ones just involved with the liftoff, the rest are inside the auditorium,

And our main page for our space program.



This is great, because it just shows what everyone and anyone can do if they put their common sence forward. The brill thing is, we generally have most of the hardware in our homes to do the same. The thinking out of the box, is putting random everyday products together and creating a spaceprogram project for less than £1000!.

Now why could we not do things like this in science classes at school?. I guess, with everyone trying this globally, we would end up with a lot of space debris, and problems for national aviation airways.

Still, watching this gives inspiration of vision, in what we as mere humans can do if we really started to think spacially!.

Harpal Sahota

What a beautiful father-son moment!


Fantastic! Now I want to do this!

John Thomas

Facebook user - That\'s the beauty of a grabbed your attention and got you to read the story. Unfortunately, your reading of it was poised to find error and approached from the stand point of a cynic. Here\'s my thing, I love the edge of space and would rather see pictures at the edge of space than from space. The first caption clearly says, an image of the darkness of space. If you thought a father and son launch a video camera into the vacuum of outer space rather than even into low orbit...than shame on you.

Great job you guys.


Amazing. I was fantazing about doing something similar to this when I was still a kid. But we did not have video cameras then.

Ted Ferrer

I really enjoyed this report and video, and just read the comments to see the expected sour, po-faced, immediate reaction from our nit-picking friends. Maybe the usual one, \'facebook user\' should have realised that most readers would have known beforehand that a \'baloon\' [sic], couldn\'t reach an airless zone, but still would watch the video. Great stuff Luke and Max!


Facebook User is entirely correct. Seeing or photographing \"the blackness of outer space\" can be done on a cloudless night from nearly anywhere on earth. If the headline had said, \"Father-Son Launch Camera Up 19 Miles\" it would be truthful and still indicate that something interesting had been done. Gizmag should use scientific terms correctly, and be an ADVOCATE of science, engineering, and technology instead of sinking to the level of flat-earthers, \"scientific creationists\", or other anti-science ignorati.


Instead of a HD camera put Digital SLR so it will shoot the video with excellent picture quality. Can\'t we fly these ballons to more heights.

The total experiment will cost atleast 2000$ if we want to put DSLR, ballon that can with stand huge heights and stand for a long time. i can sponsor.

Tulasi Ram

The battery did not withstand the clod temps of just 30 miles above earth for around one hour! Aha...

Then what kind of battery did NASA use to record the moon landing event back in 1969 and how did the camera and the film functioned flawlessly to capture such glorious color images and video. As you may have learned, the moon doesn\'t have any air around it. The air that surrounds our earth acts as a nice blanket to keep us warm and comfy! But the moon, since it doesn\'t have this blanket, gets much colder than the earth and much hotter than the earth. On the side of the moon that the sun is shining on, the temperature reaches 260 Fahrenheit! That is hotter than boiling. On the dark side of the moon, it gets very cold, -280 Fahrenheit.

Your answers please!


A good project - but I agree with comments about the incoorrect title! At the school I work at we also recently did a baloon launch to 100,000 ft, with a stills camera not video. I clicked the link because I thought I would find out how to get a camera to outer space, not just the stratosphere!


Stuff in outer space (and on the moon) do not need to worry about the cold. There\'s no air out there to dissipate heat into. NASA needs to worry about their equipment frying from the harsh radiation from the sun. These two were protecting the battery from the cold winds at that altitude (i.e. air).

Kudos to the father and son. I had thought homebrew ingenuity had died with Facebook ad MTV. There\'s still hope.


eyenet2u: It is way too silly to assume NASA would use an over-the-counter camera to photograph or film the moon landing! Most of the stuff we consider high tech now, has been in use by government agencies for at least 20 years. Secondly!! Guys, I find it rather pathetic that someone would let ego interfere with kindness and make rather nasty and uneducated comments to belittle the importance of this project. In the end, if anyone wants scientifically correct projects he or she should look into those made by NASA, ESA or XCOR or the Da Vinci Project. This is a father and son project. The focus is more on sparking the boy\'s curiosity and getting him interested in science rather. Maybe this article will get inspire fathers world-wide to help their kids develop an interest in science. Maybe the human race can still be hopeful of its future. Don\'t lose focus people; this is about the 7 year old boy not your ego!!

Evelio Perez
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