MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

Summary: Wondering what to do with that old clunker of a digital camera you've got in your drawer? Try taking photos of space with it. Three enterprising MIT students have successfully launched and retrieved a digital camera in order to snap photos of the earth from the upper atmosphere -- and they did it all for under $150.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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Wondering what to do with that old clunker of a digital camera you've got in your drawer?  Try taking photos of space with it. Three enterprising MIT students have successfully launched and retrieved a digital camera in order to snap photos of the earth from the upper atmosphere -- and they did it all for under $150.

Using a helium-filled weather balloon, a Styrofoam cooler, a GPS-enabled Motorola i290 prepaid cellphone, and a used Canon A470 point-and-shoot that they bought on Amazon for $40 (plus other inexpensive off-the-shelf items, such as disposable hand warmers to keep the battery from freezing in-flight), the students were able to launch the camera to an estimated altitude of 93,000 feet and capture some fantastic photos of the earth's curvature set against the darkness of space.

By loading the A470 with the CHDK open source firmware add-on, the students were able to implement an intervalometer script to allow the camera to take pictures every 5 seconds during the camera's 5-hour, 20 mile journey from its launch in Sturbridge, Mass., to its retrieval in Worcester, Mass (with the Motorola phone broadcasting the camera's GPS location by text message all along the way).

Though they were not the first to attempt such a launch, the low-budget simplicity of their project makes it exceptional.

For a time-lapse video of the camera's journey:

1337arts Icarus Project TimeLapse Video (Max Altitude: 93,000 ft) from Justin Lee on Vimeo.

Topic: Hardware

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12 comments
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  • Very Cool

    Opens some very intriging low cost possibilities for astronomers around the world.
    Dr_Zinj
  • Go Beavers!

    I miss the good old days walking up and down the Infinite Corridor.
    tikigawd
  • RE: MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

    Great job! The trip down is a blast!
    mike.vain
  • RE: MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

    NASA would have spent several billion dollars of our tax money, and taken several years, to accomplish anything similar.

    GOOD JOB, guys!
    WRBriggs
  • Great!

    We have several Canon point-and-shoot cameras, and while they are terrific cameras in their own right, adding the CHDK firmware opens up new possibilities. On my A570, for example, I automatically take 3 shots when the shutter button is pressed--one normal, one two stops over, and one two stops under. Run them through Photomatix, and you have fantastic HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos. CHDK lets you shoot in RAW, adds a battery level gauge, greatly expands exposure settings, and a host of other cool features. All for free, with no modification of the camera.
    Dorkyman
  • RE: MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

    It is nonsense what one reader wrote
    about what it would cost to do such a
    feat using government. In fact,
    without NASA the US would have no
    space research as there is no profit in
    such activities as yet though there
    might be one of these days. Now that
    water has been proven on the moon, I
    suspect in another generation there
    might very well be practical
    applications and thus the money
    grubbers will be in there with both
    feet, ripping up another planet. No
    matter what the free market capitalist
    types say about paying too much tax
    to go explore space, they miss the
    point which is that the Human Race
    must do this process or die on a
    planet trapped as it ceases to sustain
    life. Oh yes, that is what we are
    presently doing to it..making it a place
    of desert and heat, melting glaciers
    and rising oceans. Good for the MIT
    students to show that there is a young
    generation who finds the goals of
    NASA, ESA, Canadian Space Agency,
    Russia and India's, China's and Japan's
    space program valid as I do. By the
    way, without NASA the US would have
    been a third world space-less country.
    It takes money and the national will to
    do what they have accomplished and
    now with the path opened private
    companies are getting into the game
    and good for that.
    nfiertel
  • 1st Successful Amateur Hi-Def Video from The Edge of Space

    Both projects are pretty darn ingenious . . .

    http://bear.sbszoo.com/bear3-4/bear4.html
    bubba555
  • RE: MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

    Check out the fake stuff at 2:46-2:47!
    kvolkan
  • Deals Hunt

    Opens some very intriging low cost possibilities for astronomers around the world.

    from
    http://www.dealshunt.com
    GreatDeals
  • RE: MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

    Cool. Nice Article. How it is of 40$ Canon A470? I found it not less then 79$????
    Here check em out?
    http://www.justcompareit.com/s~q-canon-a470~b-402~c-digital-cameras~sp-price_asc.aspx?ag=3
    Steve.bucknor
  • RE: MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

    Here are cannon digital cam categories. All products about that compare its prices.
    http://www.justcompareit.com/m~c-digital-cameras~b-402~f-259-43010~sp-price_asc.aspx?ag=3
    Steve.bucknor
  • RE: MIT students snap space photos of the earth with $40 Canon A470

    WOW!!! clap clap!!, nice, actually I'm proud of my Canon a470 camera, hehehe, please visit http://nephtagon.blogspot.com ,all of the pictures were taken by that camera.
    jomeldelacruz