Practical Photography magazine has captured a series of breathtaking still images and videos of Earth from space, for less than £250. This is the first time a specialist publication has achieved such a feat, and signals the next evolutionary leap in creative photography – high-altitude balloons.
Using a 1kg balloon made by Sent Into Space (sentintospace.com), the Practical Photography team launched two Panasonic HX-A500 wearable cameras from the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. The balloon reached a height of over 36,000m (118,100ft) before bursting and returning to Earth. The image shows the moment that the ‘bubble burst’ in space, with Practical Photography’s January 2016 issue being held proudly aloft by an intrepid Lego astronaut.
Two and a half hours and 80 miles later, the cameras landed in a field in rural Leicestershire, aided by a parachute, where a GPS tracking device was used to locate them. The cameras were housed in a small polystyrene box.
One of the Panasonic HX-A500 cameras filmed continuous HD video footage of the entire flight, while the other captured one high-resolution still image every 10 seconds. The combined footage captures every thrilling moment.
The small balloon was filled with 450 party balloons’ worth of helium at the time of launch, and would have expanded to a width of 10m at its maximum height, prompting it to burst. That’s the length of a double-decker bus.
To put this exciting achievement into perspective, NASA estimates that it costs around $450 million to launch a space shuttle. Practical Photography’s space adventure cost 3,214,285 times less!
“We wanted to show what could be achieved with a modest budget and basic equipment,” says Practical Photography editor Ben Hawkins. “Drones are hugely popular right now, and fairly high spec models can be picked up for around £800, but Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules prevent them from being flown above 500m. Balloons can fly up to 38,000m – that’s 76 times higher – and the resulting images are truly spectacular.”
Watch Practical Photography’s journey to space from start to finish, only in the special issue, on sale 26th November 2015 and see the video trailer below.