A GoPro heads to space, gets lost for two years, then recovered with some insane footage
Two years after being launched into orbit by a group of students, a GoPro was recently discovered by a hiker in the Arizona desert. Surprisingly, almost miraculously, the GoPro not only survived a return to Earth and a two year hibernation, it brought back with it some incredible footage.
In June 2013, a group of students decided to try launching a GoPro into the upper atmosphere using a weather balloon. The camera was placed within a 3D printed case, and the plan was for the camera to go high enough to see the curvature of the Earth, then return.
It actually worked too. According to Popular Science the rig rose for 87 minutes. The balloon then, as expected, burst. The camera then came tumbling back down.
The students had a slick idea on the recovery. They attached a signal transmitter that was meant to activate as soon as it was within cell phone range. The problem was, it never activated. The students eventually gave up and called the experiment a bust.
Two years later a hiker found the camera and returned it to the students.
The thing is, the drop actually worked exactly as intended. The rig came down in the expected area, and it should have worked. The problem was a familiar one – the cell reception sucked. The signal should have connected with a nearby tower and contacted the students, but reception wasn’t strong enough.
One of the students, Bryan Chan hopped on Reddit to explain the recent re-discovery.
We planned our June 2013 launch at a specific time and place such that the phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage. The problem was that the coverage map we were relying on (looking at you, AT&T) was not accurate, so the phone never got signal as it came back to Earth, and we never heard from it. We didn’t know this was the problem at the time – we thought our trajectory model was far off and it landed in a signal dead zone (turns out the model was actually quite accurate). The phone landed ~50 miles away from the launch point, from what I recall. It’s a really far distance considering there’s hardly any roads over there!
TWO YEARS LATER, in a twist of ironic fate, a woman who works at AT&T was on a hike one day and spotted our phone in the barren desert. She brings it to an AT&T store, and they identify my friend’s SIM card. We got the footage and data a few weeks later!
After the footage was uploaded, it revealed some incredible footage of the Grand Canyon and the Arizona desert. Check it out below, and if you decide to try something like this, choose your carrier wisely.