London, September 22 (ANI): Cost of space exploration doesn't always have to be out of this world, ask American students Oliver Yeh and Justin Lee who have taken images of the earth's surface using a camera bought on eBay, a weather balloon, a mobile phone, handwarmers and a drink cooler at a total cost of 90 pounds.
It was 20-year-old Yeh's idea to send a camera bought on eBay to the edge of earth's atmosphere using a weather balloon, a mobile phone, handwarmers and a drink cooler.
Yeh's a computer science and electrical engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lee is the other student who planned the project with Yeh.
They purchased a regular camera on eBay to tie it inside a styrofoam cooler.
Then they poked a hole in the side of the cooler for the camera lens.
And to keep track of the space camera's whereabouts they attached a mobile phone and a wireless router to send GPS coordinates back down to Earth.
The camera was set to take a photo every five seconds and the handwarmer was taped to the phone's battery to prevent it from freezing.
Finally, the whole package was strapped to a spherical weather balloon filled with helium and sent to the edge of space to take the extraordinary images.
The students had knowledge that after 17 miles upward the air pressure would force the weather balloon to pop, and so to deal with it they placed a parachute, which would lower it down to Earth safely.
In order to stop the camera from dropping in the ocean or Boston City Centre, the students calculated the best date, time and location to launch the balloon through the information on the wind speed and direction they searched online.
They even attached their contact details and offered a 25 pounds reward to anyone finding the box.
They launched the balloon on the morning of September 2 after travelling 60 miles inland to a warehouse in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.
The balloon was in the air for five hours before the air pressure forced it down.
"We were like placing bets on whether we thought it would work or not. Early on, we were optimistic that it would work," the Telegraph quoted Justin as saying.
"About 4 hours after, [when] we hadn't heard any news about the device, we had sort of given up hope. We'd thought we'd lost it," the student added.
Both students were overjoyed when they finally received the signal.
Justin added: "We were so excited, we jumped right back into the car, and we drove out to Worcester, and we found it. That was a great moment.
"There's something that's fascinating about seeing the Earth from high - I can't quite put my finger on it. There's something just beautiful about seeing that." (ANI)