Million Dollar NASA Photos Beaten by Budget Balloon

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It’s amazing what a little British ingenuity and a shoe-string budget can achieve. These glorious photos of space were taken by amateur enthusiast Robert Harrison, using a cheap Canon digital camera, some duct tape and a helium balloon.

In total, the rudimentary space camera cost just £500 ($747) on a project which a NASA spokesman admitted would have cost them millions of dollars.

Speaking to The Times, Mr Harrison explained: “A guy phoned up who worked for NASA who was interested in how we took the pictures. He wanted to know how the hell we did it.” The space experts thought Mr Harrison must have used a homemade rocket to take such spectacular shots from over 20 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The device uses materials readily available online, including loft insulation to wrap both the camera and a GPS tracking device to protect the digital equipment from freezing temperatures of -60°C (-75°F). The helium balloon which lifted the camera high above the Earth’s atmosphere expands to a diameter of up to 20 metres, before popping and letting the camera fall back to Earth via an attached parachute.

Mr Harrison said that he was by no means an electronics expert, and had picked up all he needed to know from browsing the internet, including how to reprogram his digital camera to sleep and reactivate every five minutes to take eight photos.

The shots recovered from this simple but highly effective method of automated photography have yielded some amazing results. The camera was also rigged to take brief film footage as it hung above the Earth’s atmosphere.

We have republished just some of the amazing photos taken here, but you can see the full collection at Mr Harrison’s dedicated website – The Icarus Project.

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