We've seen iPhones in blenders, aerial balloons and underwater, but this may be the first time someone has launched an iPhone into space. The father and son duo of Luke and Max Geissbuhler recently launched a weather balloon into the upper stratosphere--about 19 miles above the planet's surface. The contraption included an iPhone 4 and a separate HD video camera to capture images of the Earth. The duo didn't use the iPhone 4's camera capabilities, but instead used the smartphone as a GPS tracking device for their spacecraft.
How it worked
The team said it took eight months of research and testing leading up to launch day. The contraption needed to survive 100-mile winds, temperatures of -60 degrees Fahrenheit and speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, according to the team's video documenting the space journey.
The space faring set-up included an insulated capsule with hand warmers to keep the electronics from freezing, a GoPro HD video camera, and an iPhone 4 running Instamapper--a GPS-tracking app available in the iTunes Store, according to Mike Senese, host of the Discovery Science Channel's Catch It Keep It.
The capsule was attached to a weather balloon designed to burst once it reached 19 feet in diameter. It lifted off from Newburgh, New York on a slightly overcast day in August. As the space balloon rose through the atmosphere--at a rate of 25 feet every second--the balloon slowly began to expand from the atmospheric pressure. Once the balloon burst, the capsule had a parachute to slow the contraption's 150 mph descent back to Earth. The father and son duo found their space-faring capsule about 30 miles from the launch site. The result of the capsule's voyage was a 100-minute video including some impressive high altitude shots of the planet.
Sending weather balloons into space is becoming something of a popular hobby in recent months. In May, U.K. resident Robert Harrison sent a balloon into the upper stratosphere with a Canon A560 attached, according to ABC News. NASA also has a program called BalloonSAT Exploring Program based at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland that helps high school students launch space faring balloons.
If you're interested in launching your own space balloon, the Geissbuhler team is planning on publishing a How-To book to help you get started. The instructional manual is not ready yet, but you can add your name to the team's mailing list here. If you do end up sending your own balloon into space just make sure you get clearance from the Federal Aviation Authority before lifting off so your balloon won't interfere with any aircraft in the area.