iPhone in Space


Written by Flora King
25 Monday 25th October 2010

With this in mind, one Brooklyn-based father – a cinematographer named Luke Geissbuhler – decided to a come up with a tech-savvy way to amuse his young son, but one that didn’t involve plonking him in front of a hundred-inch plasma TV screen or letting him play Grand Theft Auto on his iPhone for fifteen hours straight. Geissbuhler’s resultant plan, which was put in to motion this month, did however involve an iPhone; an old 3G with a cracked screen to be precise, plus a high definition camera, a weather balloon, a rudimentary parachute and a vertical height of 100,000 feet.

After eight months spent devising how to build a wind and temperature resistant home-made spacecraft, Luke and his son ventured out to a park in Newburgh, New York earlier this month and inside a thermally-padded package hanging from the bottom of a balloon sent both the iPhone and HD camera up in to space. Their mission was to film the curvature of the Earth using the HD camera, then track the package using the iPhone’s MobileMe GPS tracking application when the spacecraft eventually fell back to Earth. Unbelievably, amazingly, this madcap mission turned out to be a success.

The space-craft climbed at a rate of 25 feet per second, passing through the first layers of the atmosphere and reaching a height of 100,000 feet before the balloon burst due to a lack of atmospheric pressure and it began its ascent back to Earth. During the journey it survived speeds of 150mph, 100mph winds and temperatures of 60 degrees below zero, before landing in a tree, astoundingly just thirty miles north of its launch point.

When the intrepid father-son team then tracked the package using the iPhone’s GPS transmitter and LED light, what they recovered from the HD camera was a video of the entire journey; the ascent through the clouds, the darkening of the sky and a glorious view back to Earth.

Who says the iPhone doesn’t have a good battery life?

For more information on Geissbuhler and the Brooklyn Space Program check out his website www.brooklynspaceprogram.org

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  • (Don't Panic staff)
    Wed 08 - Dec - 2010, 14:40
    Hi Luke, Sorry about that, I've revised the mentions of it being an iPhone 4 now. A bashed up old 3G seems much more sensible!
  • Guest: brooklynspaceprogram
    Sat 30 - Oct - 2010, 16:52
    Couple things, it wasn't an iphone 4. I'm not sure why people assume that. It was an old used, cracked-screen, straight 3G. And my son Max loves Legos. Luke Geissbuhler