New Space and Tech

Video From The Edge of Space

By Keith Cowing
April 8, 2013
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If you can, watch this video in HD (select the 720p option). As the payload slowly rotates you will see Discovery’s vapor trail at the Earth’s limb – twice. The payload (with camera) first swings to the west and then reverses and swings back to the east, past Discovery’s vapor trial, around to the west again, and then continues to rotate to the east toward the vapor trail again.

Last week a balloon with a student-oriented payload shot high resolution photos and video from an altitude of over 110,000 feet of Space Shuttle Discovery as it climbed into space.These images and video were released today as part of a mission report provided by Quest for Stars representative Bobby Russell at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) at the University of Central Florida. More information on this conference can be found at
The images and video can be viewed online at

Co-sponsored by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, this mission, dubbed “Robonaut-1”, is one in a series of flights conducted by Quest for Stars, a California-based non-profit educational organization that uses off-the-shelf hardware and a little ingenuity to allow students to place experiments at the edge of space at exceptionally low cost.

Quest for Stars and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education have now joined together to promote the use of these low cost delivery systems. This mission was the first of what is hoped to be many future collaborations.

A helium-filled balloon carrying the “Robonaut-1” payload was launched at 3:50 p.m. EST on Thursday, 24 February 2011 from Chiefland, Florida so as to be in position for Discovery’s supersonic transit of the stratosphere.

The balloon rose rapidly at a rate of over 1,000 feet per minute to an altitude of at least 110,000 feet. The altitude may have been higher but the onboard GPS temporarily suspended operations due to the balloon’s speed and extreme altitude. After accomplishing its mission, the balloon burst and the payload descended by parachute. A recovery team retrieved the payload and downloaded its data and imagery.

The payload onboard Robonaut-1 was comprised of two Motorola Droid X smartphones (with cameras), multiple GoPro Hero Motorsport still cameras, and several High Definition video cameras. In addition, the payload contained a Motorola i290 mobile phone and a Garmin eTrex GPS system that is connected to a ham radio transmitter. This payload was designed to have multiple means of communication for backup purposes.

About Quest for Stars

Quest for Stars is a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with high schools and middle schools to bring the excitement of sending small payloads to the edge of space on high altitude balloons and then retrieving them. Quest for Stars encourages children and young adults to reach for the stars by exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) educational concepts and their application to space research. The organization works with partners such as the Motorola Foundation and The Challenger Center for Space Science Education to bring space access down to Earth. The shared mission: to inspire the next generation of explorers.

Once retrieved the payload bay is donated to a school along with pictures in High Definition at the edge of space. This allows the students to be part of the design and launch of the payload–which is an experience they will never forget. All materials, time, and effort are provided to the selected school at absolutely no cost. Quest for stars provides all materials and FAA interfacing required to launch weather balloons into the stratosphere. Their staff consists of private pilots, electronic experts, and mechanical engineers who ensure that launch vehicles meet all federal regulations. For more information visit

About Challenger Center for Space Science Education

Using space exploration as a theme and simulations as a vehicle, Challenger Center for Space Science Education and its international network of 48 Challenger Learning Centers create positive educational experiences that raise students’ expectations of success, fosters a long-term interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and inspires students to pursue studies and careers in these areas. Challenger Center’s network of Challenger Learning Centers across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Korea reach more than 400,000 students each year through simulated space missions and educational programs, and engage over 40,000 educators through missions, teacher workshops and other programs.

In addition to its Learning Center activities, Challenger Center personnel and associates have participated in missions of exploration in recent years that have included journeys to the International Space Station, Devon Island in the Canadian high arctic, Mt. Everest, Antarctica, and NASA Desert RATS. To learn more about Challenger Center for Space Science Education, visit

Quest for Stars Mission Contact:

Bobby Russell
+1.858.349.5701 (cell)

Challenger Center Contact:

Angie Tenne
Challenger Center for Space Science Education
300 N. Lee Street, Suite 301, Alexandria, VA 22314

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.