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Monday, September 14, 2009

MIT Students Take Pictures from Space on $150 Budget. - iReport.com

Two MIT students have successfully photographed the earth from space on a strikingly low budget of $148. Perhaps more significantly, they managed to accomplish this feat using components available off-the-shelf to the average layperson, opening the doors for a new generation of amateur space enthusiasts. The pair plan to launch again soon and hope that their achievements will inspire teachers and students to pursue similar endeavors.

Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh have always dreamed of seeing the earth from space, but until recently, they believed that they had neither the budget nor the technical expertise to get a camera into the stratosphere.

Early September, in a moment of creative inspiration, the pair devised an innovative low-cost, low-effort method for space photography. The device they created cost less than $150, and they were able to build it without any significant modifications to out-of-the-box electronics.

The secret behind their success was figuring out which consumer-ready components to pick-and-match to solve the problems space photographers face. Their device had to: rise to an altitude high enough to capture space photographs, withstand extreme temperatures of the stratosphere, and be trackable/recoverable.

The students knew that helium-filled weather balloons were capable of reaching altitudes of 20+ miles, high enough to photograph the curvature of the earth. Weather balloons were also relatively inexpensive; a 300g latex balloon can be ordered online for $20 and can be filled with helium at a party store for $30. If they could keep their camera device light, then a 300g balloon would have enough lift to carry their device into the upper stratosphere.

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MIT Students Take Pictures from Space on $150 Budget. - iReport.com

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