19-Year-Old Takes Space Photos that Rival NASA’s 14 Sep 12

You might not expect a teenager with an extra $320 dollars in his pocket to spend the money on an elaborate science project, but that’s just what British teen Adam Cudworth decided to do when he built an image recording spacecraft.

Cudworth, 19, was able to capture some awe-inspiring photos of the stratosphere, Earth, and even the curvature of the planet by using only modest materials that included a helium balloon, a used digital camera bought on eBay, and a GPS tracking device. He carefully housed the camera in a weatherproof box, secured it to the balloon, and released the apparatus — allowing it to travel more than 20 miles into the atmosphere and record 2.5 hours worth of video.

Those who are earth-bound usually only see such images from multi-million dollar satellites, but with only a few hundred bucks and a background in high school physics, Cudworth was able to provide the world with photos which rival NASA’s.

He said, “People think it’s something that costs million of pounds, but I’ve proved you can do it on just a £200 budget.”

Still, Cudworth remains modest about his work calling it nothing more than a “little project” and saying, “It’s just a bit of a hobby, really. I just wanted to set myself a challenge — but I’m amazed at the results. I saw a guy who did a similar thing a couple of years back and I just wanted to recreate them — but better.”

Cudworth spent more than 40 hours working on the device (named HABE 5) in his spare time. In addition to the Canon A570 camera, he also outfitted HABE 5 with a small video camera, temperature sensors, high-performance solar panels, a microprocessor, a tracking device, and a radio.

With his on-board gadgets, Cudworth was able to record the speed, temperature, altitude, and G-force conditions throughout the balloon’s entire flight. And cleverly, the built-in GPS allowed him to retrieve the camera after the balloon burst and dropped the apparatus 30 miles from his home.

Naturally, Cudworth isn’t stopping with this one experiment and already has ideas of how to tweak his design and make it better.

He said, “I’m now working on a project which will allow me to control where the box lands when it falls back to Earth. But that’s a work-in-progress at the minute and I’ll have to be content with this for now.”