UPDATE! 9:36am- Up, up, and away!
The idea belonged to my colleagues Sam and Lars, and was soon added to my list of resolutions. After realizing that it was a reasonably easy goal to accomplish, we set about gathering all the parts and preparing to launch the camera to 100,000 feet above the Earth. For comparison, jet airliners fly at 35k feet and at 100k feet the curvature of the Earth and the darkness of space become apparent. Our goal is to photograph this breathtaking sight and return our payload safely to earth using off-the-shelf components that we already have. The camera was modified using the Canon Hack Development Kit (CDHK) to take photos at regular time intervals. The GPS will record the 3D path of the balloon as it ascends through the atmosphere, into the fast moving jet stream, and finally above 99% of the atmosphere where it will expand to a point that its latex surface will rupture. The payload will rapidly descend through the upper atmosphere until the air density increases to the point that the attached parachute slows the descent to a safe speed to its landing location about 100 miles downwind from the launch site. And all the while, the SPOT will be relaying the position of the balloon to us in real-time!
So if you are interested in following along, just take a look at the map below and be sure to refresh every it 10 minutes or so. I can’t guarantee the exact launch time, so keep checking our progress throughout the morning.