NBC -- The first time science and technology combined to put a rocket into space and send back pictures of our planet, it was unbelievable. We'd never seen ourselves quite that way and we've assumed it takes a space program to take a picture like that -- until now. Not until a guy, just a regular guy in Great Britain managed, pretty simply, to do the same thing.
Robert Harrison is a self-confessed computer geek who said it was boredom that got him thinking awhile back about space exploration; photo exploration to be more specific.
"We have a camera. A simple point and click camera from Canon, 50 quid on eBay," Harrison said.
That's about $100 for the camera and about $600 more for a GPS tracking device, duct tape to hold it all together, plus a standard weather balloon and the helium to fill it. Then up, up, up and away, above the English countryside, while the camera clicked away automatically as Harrison tracked its progress from the attic of his Yorkshire home.
At 22 miles high, the stratosphere at the edge of space, the balloon burst as expected. With that cheap camera capturing images like these, a parachute carried it safely back to Earth where Harrison used the GPS signal to find it.
Harrison may have been the first hobbyist to try weather balloon photography from near space, but now there are several dozen space enthusiasts going for the same cheap thrill; cheap as in inexpensive, but useful.
Pictures like these have often been taken aboard space shuttle, each mission costing NASA about $400 million. So getting images like these for a few hundred dollars is an eye-opener.
A team at MIT has gotten its own balloon camera aloft for only $150 and they posted a how-to primer for the next explorer. A bargain basement way to see the truths revealed to real space travelers, with your own photographs as proof.