It started out as a simple idea. And now, Alex Baker and Chris Rose have a collection of photos that everyone is talking about.
The two PhD students at the University of Sheffield in England found a way to film the earth from space using only a foam box, a camera, a tracking device and a weather balloon.
“We wanted to send something into space for as little money as possible,” Rose told The Weather Network. “Ultimately we hoped that we might achieve a beautiful shot of the earth from space. You know, the blackness of space, the curvature of the earth, the thin blue line of the atmosphere.”
Little did Rose and Baker know that the images they would capture would resemble something shot by NASA.
The project didn't cost them much, either.
“The whole build cost us about 350 pounds, which is about 570 Canadian dollars,” explains Baker.
The students launched the balloon in a community called Ashbourne. It rose about 37 km in altitude and travelled just over 160 km in its journey. The box landed in a place called Strethall.
“It landed in the middle of a farmer's field and it took some finding, actually,” says Rose. “The coordinates of the track had only given us to the nearest road or intersection, and so we'd almost given up hope of finding it essentially.”
When Baker and Rose located the box, they were amazed at what they saw. Since then, their images and how-to videos have been viewed by thousands.
“If you told us back then that over a quarter of a million would be enjoying what we did, we would have told you you were joking,” says Rose. “We're both interested in space and exploration, but I think most people are to an extent. I think this is why people have been so enthused by the results we got.”
Now, Baker and Rose are designing and improving the systems involved with this project so that anyone with little or no specialist knowledge could do the same on a low budget.
“If anyone's interested in our developments, they just need to check out our YouTube clip,” says Baker. “They can find it by looking for 'how to film the earth from space.' And if they subscribe, we'll keep them updated of any of our developments and they can feel free to ask us any questions!”