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.