Teenager captures stunning photos of Earth from space using a homemade spacecraft

What where you doing at the age of 19? Smoking pot? Snorting weed? Dancing to Metallica? While I don’t know what you were doing at that age, I do know what you weren’t doing — snapping awesome photos of our planet from outer-space using something you built buying parts off eBay. Adam Cudworth, on the other hand, is a different story.

Adam Cudworth, a nineteen year old engineering student at Nottingham University, built a homemade spacecraft consisting of a Canon A570 digital camera put in an insulated box containing a GPS chip, radio transmitter, and a self-programmed microprocessor. Cudworth then attached his contraption, dubbed HABE (High Altitude Balloon Experiments), to an air balloon and launched HABE into space where it captured NASA-quality photos of Earth from a height of 110,210 ft (roughly 20 miles above ground). Once HABE landed back on Earth (after the balloon burst in space), Cudworth was able to retrieve the photos by locating HABE using the GPS chip and radio transmitter he included.

The following are the out of this world photos (literally) Cudworth snapped:

Stunning. Absolutely stunning. HABE was also able to capture some photos of Earth landscape while it was ascending to space, which you can view on Cudworth’s Flickr page.

The best part? It cost Cudworth roughly $600 (£200) in parts, some of which he bought off eBay such as the camera, to build his HABE contraption. Of course it isn’t fair to compare Cudworth’s experiment to the millions upon millions of dollars NASA spends on space research simply because of the vast differences in complexity; however, if a nineteen year old university student can snap awesome photos of Earth on less than $1,000, you may be asking yourself where are your tax dollars going.

Despite the relatively low cost of Cudworth’s project, don’t let yourself think it was an easy task that anyone can do over a weekend. Cudworth spent roughly 40 hours of his free time building HABE and had two failed attempts prior to this successful one. On the other hand, it should be mentioned Cudworth claims to be no genius nor does he have any experience in physics outside of a high school physics class so it is possible that you may be able to create your own HABE and follow in Cudworth’s footsteps; after all, Cudworth himself was inspired by someone else:

I saw a guy who did a similar thing a couple of years back and I just wanted to recreate them – but better.

Cudworth’s next project? Trying to control where HABE lands upon descent back to Earth. Best of lucky, buddy.

[via Mashable | Images via adamcudworth, Telegraph]

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  • riya

    Wow.. I wish I could take pictures like that!

  • jay

    Hey how to program camera to take picture automatically?

  • Hamza

    110,210 ft = 33.59 Km
    So, he took these images at 33.59 Km height? how can this happen?! the thickness of the atmosphere is approximately 500 Km !

  • Clay

    H.A.B.E. is High Altitude Balloon Experiments

  • LuisR


    Actually it costs NASA so much money because they had to start from scratch, invent and develop things that did not exist in order to do their job. While what this college kid did is in itself amazing, he is holding in his hand something that was likely originally developed for space exploration and took a lot of effor to develop decades ago and yet we all take for granted today: a compact digital camera. He did not have to spend humongous amounts of money or years of development. That’s the differene here.

  • Ashraf

    @Bruce: Cannon should use that line for marketing.
    @Mothballs: I thought the same thing, but it actually is HABE and not HARE — I’m not sure why.
    @Ira: He lives in the UK, I’m not so sure how feasible it would be for him to travel across the pond. Still a good suggestion, though.
    @Mike: Ditto.
    @vorton: Cool, thanks for that. Apparently Samsung cameras work in space, too. xD
    @MerryMarjie: It may cost $100,000 (which is a lot less than NASA is spending) but the scientific — and potential military — value will be nothing like what NASA is working on. Still, an interesting proposal nonetheless.

  • MerryMarjie

    This is incredibly exciting! To think that a young man came up with this idea and created such a relatively simple device (well, to HIM, maybe, not to me!) that could take such amazing pictures is awesome. It makes me think that perhaps it costs NASA more to do this because it has a seemingly endless supply of money, realizing that government agencies need to spend every penny of their allotment or it will be reduced the following year. Gee, for $100,000 we could put up dozens of these contraptions all over the world!

  • vorton
  • Mike

    Good for him and his ingenuity! :) And keep up the good work and efforts!

  • Ira

    I wqould appreciatemention of “Make Faire/ Queens, NY” Google this o get details.

    There are Make Faires” all over the U.S. which give geeks a chance to show off their talents. Worth the trp, especially if you have a teenager and want to interest him or hger in engineering.

  • Mothballs

    Ermm… I think you’ll find that acronym should be HARE.

  • Bruce

    I have the same camera and I love it!
    Now I know why. It even works great in space!

  • Ashraf

    @acr: L.M.A.O. When I wrote that I was thinking the same thing — am I getting these right?

  • acr

    It’s probably more accurate to say “snorting coke” or “snorting meth”. Pot and weed are the same thing and is usually smoked. But not knowing all those details is probably better in the big picture of things LOL.

  • Ashraf

    @David Chisholm: I swear I proofread. Thanks, fixed.

  • David Chisholm

    Insulted box or insulated?