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Father-son team sends balloon into space, captures video

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Balloon floats 19 miles high into the upper stratosphere … and returns with video filmed on a camera tethered to the homemade capsule

By Posted Nov 8, 2010

A father-son team, prompted by the boy’s persistent request to build a homemade spacecraft, have exceeded expectations by successfully sending a small helium-filled balloon into space and capturing the dizzying journey on video.

Luke Geissbühler and his 8 year old son Max spent eight months designing and testing their tiny space craft, complete with HD video camera to record the trip and a GPS equipped iPhone to locate the craft once it returned to earth. The craft and components would have to survive 100 mph winds, temperatures of 60 degrees below zero, speeds of over 150 mph, and a possible splashdown in water.

A small weather balloon was used to lift the craft into space. The capsule was simply a takeout food container with spray-on insulation applied to the interior. The camera and iPhone were protected from sub-zero temperatures by chemical hand-warming packets.

Their innovative craft was launched in Newburgh, New York, in August. During a 102-minute flight it managed to reach an altitude of 19 miles above the ground in the upper stratosphere before the balloon burst and parachuted the craft back down to earth. The team tracked the module, which was caught in a tree 30 miles from the launch site, by using the GPS system set up on the iPhone and spotting its flashing LED light.

The video captures the balloon’s journey 100,000 feet (19 miles) into space and back down! It gets a little shaky on the way up, but when it breaks free from the thermal winds it just floats calmly with an astronaut’s view of the earth.

While the concept of the project may seem simple enough, it required professional expertise to achieve the successful space flight. Luke Geissbühler a director and cinematographer, had been involved in research on weather balloon enthusiasts for a feature film. His brother Phillip, a Boston-based physicist, helped them figure in factors such as high winds, low temperatures, and how to predict the balloon’s behavior.

This short video made by the father and son team has become a viral hit receiving over a million views.

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  • Jeff

    Amazing man. Nice thing to create a bond to your child… you gave me an idea. haha

  • Cybrrr

    Amazing that it landed only 30 miles from launch site after travelling all the way to space. Must have been a calm night. Great story.

  • jacks788


    beautiful picture….

  • Ember

    What a great dad! Inspiring!

  • A great story! Interesting to see that a pair of 17 year-old Canadians have just completed a similar feat, putting a lego man into the upper atmosphere (24 kilometres). I love these inspirational stories!

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