They used strictly off-the-shelf items to send a helium balloon 17.5 miles high to take their photos of Earth and space. The key parts included a Canon digital camera bought on eBay and a mobile phone, both packed into a Styrofoam beer cooler.
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They cut a hole in the Styrofoam to enable the lens to peek through. Oliver Yeh, Justin Lee and Eric Newton launched their Project Icarus balloon on September 2 from a field in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.
“The results were fantastic,” they say on their Web site. “Our ultra low-budget balloon went 17.5 miles high into the uppermost parts of the stratosphere and returned five hours later,” delivered to a soft landing by a simple parachute.
The students tested their parachute by putting eggs inside the Styrofoam box and tossed it off a five-storey building. “We were not satisfied with the landing speed of our box until the eggs did not break upon the box’s impact,” they say.