In the summer of 2013, several students from Stanford University launched a space balloon with a GoPro Hero3 camera and a smartphone attached to it in an attempt to capture exclusive footage from space of the Grand Canyon.
Although they have used computer models to simulate the balloon’s trajectory and calculate the exact landing site, the balloon was never recovered until this year when an Arizona hiker found the camera in a remote location.
The woman returned the footage to the team which compiled it into a four-minute video and posted it on YouTube for everyone to marvel at the Grand Canyon as seen from the stratosphere.
The YouTube clip also contains footage of the team while they were building and testing the balloon and the camera. First, the group performed a series of flight tests by dropping the balloon from a distance to the ground. Second, they used computers to analyze its trajectory and approximate the landing site, and they 3-D printed a shock-resilient chassis for the camera.
On the launch date they woke up early and drove to 20 miles west of the Grand Canyon. Before the launch, they turned on the camera and cell phone and performed the last checks. Around 10:45 a.m. the space balloon was launched and in less than 10 minutes it was already at a 23,000-foot altitude (7 km) in the atmosphere.
After one hour, the balloon reached 86,000 feet (26 km) in the stratosphere. From there we can see the Grand Canyon as if it is depicted on a map, while the planet’s curvature and the moon are also visible. Fifteen minutes later, the camera was 98,600 feet (30 km) up in the stratosphere, but the balloon suddenly popped and flew away from the camera which began to head at amazing speeds towards the Earth.
Thirty minutes later the camera is on the ground. We can see that it landed in dry grass scrub ending its 1-hour-and-38-minute-long journey to space and back.
In the video we can notice the computer models students have used to calculate trajectory and landing site. But the team failed to retrieve the camera and footage because the wreckage landed in an area that lacked phone coverage. The smartphone attached to the chassis was meant to help students find the landing site.
So, the video remained lost for two years, when it was found by a hiker who, ironically, was an AT&T employee and used the SIM card of the phone to track back the camera’s owners. The students were over thrilled because they were able to retrieve the amazing footage of the Grand Canyon from space. So, have a look:
Image Source: Wikimedia