How the project came about

cropped-earthcurvature-crop.jpgIve been interested in photography and space since I was very young. I’ve often searched online for imagery from satellites of our earth and been in awe. It’s very humbling to see exactly how small we really are in the wider scheme of things. It is also really interesting to see how the earth is laid out, outside the confines of a screwed map projection.
Another interesting element to our earth is the fact that we have an atmosphere that ensures that the parameters on the surface are exactly right to sustain life. The atmosphere is a barrier that shields us from the hostilities of the environment in space. It acts as both a thermal barrier and also retains the precise mix of gasses that we need.
A few years ago I saw some imagery from a university group in Spain. Basically they had used a helium weather balloon to lift a camera up into the far reaches of the atmosphere and record it’s flight in pictures. For me these images were inspiring, they showed not only the earth from extreme altitude but also the various layers of our atmosphere. I was really taken with the project but as far as I was aware it was both expensive and also far beyond my technical capabilities. I still wanted to know if it would be possible to somehow emulate this project, on a budget and with my limited technical nouse. I decided that I would set about finding out how I could go about recreating the feat.
Fast forward a few years and by chance I discovered a link to how I could emulate the idea. I had been researching timelapse photography online and by chance discovered a bit of kit that could possibly enable me to produce a system to control the camera and track the balloon on its flight, in so doing, enable me to recover the images and the payload.
What I had discovered was a small electronic prototyping system called . This is basically a small circuit board with an integrated circuit chip onboard that interfaces to a computer via USB.
Essentially, the board is programmed via a cut down and modified version of C++, a software coding language. By interfacing the arduino with other bits of hardware it is possible to build a modular system that would achieve what I had been searching for. Problem is, I knew next to nothing about electronics and even less about software coding.
But me being me decided that these two hurdles wouldn’t play a part in stopping me achieve my goal of getting the images I had thought about for so many years.
Via the wonders of the Internet, I had found a vast wealth of knowledge that would, provided I could decipher, learn and utilise it, enable me to realise the dream.
This is how the project has come about and that was the background to how I’ve become involved in it. Through this site I aim to document my project and to share the knowledge, links and other information that I have gleaned since embarking. I will also be trying my best to break down some of the technology used and hopefully imparting my experiences of learning the language of coding in a way that absolute beginners will feel, like I did, that it is something that is achievable. If by discovering this site, someone is inspired to realise an idea or dream they have had then it will by my part in paying back some of the knowledge that I have gained from the net.
Keep checking back as I update the site and feel free to comment or add info as you see fit.
Hix

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