Astronautics is “the theory and practice of navigation beyond the Earth’s atmosphere”. Sounds like something that only government agencies with huge budgets (or Billy Bob Thornton, an empty barn and federal dairy subsidies) could tackle? Well, think again. Amateur astronautics is real and here. Over the next few posts, I’ll show you how it’s happening.
First up, The Brooklyn Space Program, the brainchild of a few New York nerds and theirs kids. (Remember, I mean nerd as a compliment.) These cool folks decided that instead of models of spaceships, they should just build and launch the real thing. Their platform of choice was a weather balloon. While it won’t break the surly bonds of earth, it reaches about 100,000 feet, about three times the comfy cruising altitude of a transoceanic jetliner. Not low earth orbit, but darn close.
Their spaceship was a styrofoam takeout container, tricked out with some extra padding, an iphone with a window for its video camera and some hand-warmers for when the temperature would drop to around 60′ below zero. They inflated the balloon, and sent it to the edge of space. And the little iphone not only recorded the whole trip, the gps unit allowed the BSP crew (which appears to be two adults and two kids) to retrieve the phone. Watch the video below. In the next installment of the DIY Astronautics miniseries, we’ll look at a DIY satellite kit that will only set you back eight grand and an amateur astronautical engineer with a plan to make a satellite that will convert the ionosphere into music.