Students Send GoPro to Space, Find It Two Years Later

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Students Send GoPro to Space, Find It Two Years Later

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What happens if you send something up in a weather balloon and instead of it coming back down like you expect it to, it gets lost somewhere in a desert 80 kilometers away from you?

This is exactly what happened to a group of Arizona-based students who wanted to see what their GoPro camera could capture when attached to a weather balloon and sent it high up to the edge of space. No doubt their intention was on seeing something spectacular when the camera returned back.

The preparation for it was all planned well as the video below shows. The team spent months testing parachutes, calculating wind trajectories, custom 3D printing their GoPro case, and a spacecraft. The launch took place in June of 2013 on a clear day. They released the balloon which slowly went up capturing the Grand Canyon from afar. It went to an altitude of 30 kilometres and an hour and a half later, the balloon exploded leaving the camera to plummet down to the ground.

Till here everything went according to plan, however, the package’s return to earth didn’t go down as smoothly. Due to GPS and data coverage difficulties, the package could not be tracked after it had landed.

We planned our June 2013 launch at a specific time and place such that the phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage. The problem was that the coverage map we were relying on (looking at you, AT&T) was not accurate, so the phone never got signal as it came back to Earth, and we never heard from it….

The phone landed ~50 miles [80 km] away from the launch point, from what I recall. It’s a really far distance considering there’s hardly any roads over there!”

The device was found two years later by an employee of AT&T who was hiking in the desert. She identified the SIM card and returned the camera to its owners. The package had landed approximately 80 kilometers away from the launch site.

The whole affair may not have gone as planned, but the video shows some amazing footage on its way up, and a really cool slow motion capture of the balloon exploding into tiny bits.

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Sanket Vijay
When not indulging in reading or writing, Sanket fanboys over The Flash, Star Wars, Coldplay, and U2. And pizza, he loves his pizza. Follow him on Instagram for more.