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Landing & Retrieval

The parachute slowed down the fall sufficiently for the capsule to stay together in one piece.  The Motorola i290 managed to send out its gps location before landing. Although our the electronics suffered no damage (low impact velocity), the cell phone antenna burrowed into the ground upon landing, preventing further transmission of gps location.

We were also lucky that the capsule landed in a soft-earthed construction field with a clear view of the sky. Retrieval would definitely have been a much more difficult process had our device landed in a lake or in the forest.

Found it! Simply amazing

Found it! Simply amazing

making sure the camera is ok

Making sure the camera is ok

Inspecting the capsule

Inspecting the capsule

checking the exciting photos!
Checking the exciting photos!



150 comments to Landing/Retrieval

  • Jonny Tran

    The dude on the right has AWESOME shoes

  • Daniel

    Wow. That’s tremendous!

    I’d love to see more details on the mechanical design – what kind of balloon? where did you get it? how was the camera mounted, how did you make sure that it would point downwards? when the balloon burst, how did it detach from the cam/parachute?

    You guys did great. The naysayers need to get a life …

  • Suppe

    Have you measured the temperature?

  • For the folks asking where the landing site was, you should pull up the Google Earth .kml for the full path of the flight:

    Link on Google Maps:,-71.71943&sll=-71.718882,42.275391&sspn=20.77154,83.320313&ie=UTF8&ll=42.255116,-71.719399&spn=0.002875,0.005085&t=h&z=18

    It’s pretty cool looking at the path the descent took; I’ll bet there’s a local meteorologist who’d probably love to see that. ;)

    The “missing” data between 11:46:08 and 14:39:51 is interesting, presumably that’s when the cell phone couldn’t transmit?

    • diffra

      My guess is that it’s out of range of any cell towers that high up. It started transmitting again once it was able to reach a nearby tower.

      • diffra

        Upon further inspection, that’s exactly what happened. The phone/software cached as much GPS data as it could, but it appears to have lost the data in the time you’re talking about. It sent as much cached GPS data as it had stored (note most of the records with *cached record* in the KML.)

  • Scarpozzi

    What would be awesome, is utilizing a NetBook with a SSD to grab data while in flight. You’d want to create a waterproof capsule and perhaps remove the display from the netbook while in flight to keep it from getting damaged. It would make an ideal low-cost data recorder and may be able to interface with serial devices such as thermometers, altimeters, or other probes.

  • Dave

    I’m going to try a science project with the kids doing this, maybe use an old iPhone (aren’t there apps for this?).

  • Chuck

    I wanna do this with an old handycam, maybe stabilize the cooler better so a timelapse could work though.

  • Ken

    What happens when this thing konks somebody on the head on it’s way down? Did you have a chute?

  • Mark

    Why are you being so stingy with the information? No pictures of the layout of the device, no prices except for a vague total of $150.00, no details on how you filled the balloon and how much that cost, no info on placement of the hand warmers, no picture of what the “please return me” sign said on the outside of the package, no launch picture, no low-altitude pictures from flight, only FOUR pictures out of what, 8,000? Why is it always MIT people that are stingy with information? Damn. Kudos for doing it, but damn.

    • G.P.

      First off, they dont have to add anything if they don’t want to. Secondly, they probably did this as their own little project and must still have homework and stuff to do. Thirdly, I’d like to see YOU try and do this. Btw, on Yahoo! it says that they spent $148, not just the ‘stingy’ 150 AND they are gonna post instructions on how to do it yourself. To everyone. For free. With no complaints. So next time you comment, use your head and try and think of it from THEIR point of view. For all you know, just saying that could make them change their minds, especially since you said “Why is it always MIT people that are stingy with information?” Surely there are SOME MIT’s who arent stingy, so just by saying that you’re actually being prejudice.

      Great job on the balloon, btw. I’d love to try it when the instructions come out!

  • John Antilety

    Well done! Next time, see if you can’t find an old analog cellphone and use that as a modem for your next system. Digital cellphones have no oomph to them, while analog can get several miles if you’ve got good line of sight. My old phone once got 3 bars 90 miles out to sea off the Big Island of Hawai’i. Blew me away, that did?

  • Basti

    What would you have done if this thing fell on someones head and killed him?

    • raphaut

      yes, that s exactly what I was thinking too. The devive must have crashed at enormous speed right?

      you guys were pretty lucky it did not crash on someones head..

      • you're a dumbass

        Don’t you hate it when people have an opinion, but don’t take the time to read everything.

        They had a recovery parachute, the device was a foam beer cooler with a camera, cellphone and ext. battery. The whole vehicle probably weighed less than 5 lbs. and obviously descended at a reasonable rate since the photos at the retrieval sight clearly show the foam cooler intact. Not even cracked.

        They also calculated the landing site, and look around. Lots of open space.

        Fairly safe to surmise that if it landed on someone, it would only get their attention.

        Why don’t you guys save your energy and go back to complaining about Obama’s health care reform.

        I for one think this was a cool experiment and am going to try it myself. Maybe with a remote trigger and an Estes rocket or two!!


    • thing1

      What if you fell walking down the stairs, better only build on story buildings.
      What if you got hit by a bus crossing the street, better not cross the street.
      What if turning on the lights required the power company to burn a fuel(take your pick which fuel), better not turn on a light.
      What if someone drowned while surfing, better not go to the beach.

      Basti and Raphut, welcome to the new world. We know the world is not flat because of people that are will to take a chance.

  • Florian Vintersorg

    Very great !.

    nice greetings from Austria


  • Justin

    “What happens when this thing konks somebody on the head on it’s way down? Did you have a chute?”

    I am also curious about this. I would love to try this but I would be horribly worried about the liability of a 28oz object striking a person or a really expensive object.

    • James

      It is attached to a parachute. It is inside a Styrofoam beer cooler filled with a phone, a camera, hand warmers, and a crapload of newspaper.

      If it hits anyone on the head, i think they only damage would be from them thinking it was from another planet.

  • Kevin

    You shouldn’t be launching these in populated areas. This is [partly] why real scientific balloon flights are conducted in the southwest of the US. Although payloads may run in the 50+kg range, and would certainly do a lot of more damage in free fall, this could still do harm to individuals. Damage to persons and property for the sake of self-amusement is not cool.

  • Malcom

    The guy without the shoes looks like a caveman, it is incredible that a caveman can launch a camera to space. This guy should appear on the tv ads from GEIKO.

  • Steve

    This project rocks!

    I’m not sure why some people are so concerned about the safety. It didn’t impact the ground with enough energy to break the cooler, so how’s it supposed to kill someone? See the red thing in the landing photo? That’s a parachute. It took 40 minutes to fall 93,000 feet, so its average vertical speed was around 26 mph. However, the parachute would be more efficient the lower it went, so the impact speed would have been below that.

  • Mark

    I for one think you two lived out the adventure many of us had in our youth.

    Being able to attach a camera on a balloon and have it take photos from high above the earth! Well done!

    The information, photographs and details of your flight are excellent! :)

    A great story, thanks for sharing it!

  • Jeffrey

    AWESOME job Guys. NO HATERS!

  • Kevin

    Wow.. Just Amazing!! Great job guys!

  • HT

    People like you guys make people wanna go to school. Thank you.

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