Image taken from the balloon developed by Oliver Yeh and Justin Lee.
Image taken from the balloon developed by Oliver Yeh and Justin Lee.

Oliver Yeh, 20, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student who grew up in Bellevue and graduated from Newport High in 2006, hopes his low-budget experiment in near-space photography will inspire other students. According to the Seattle Times, Oliver and Justin Lee, of Texas used $150 worth of equipment (a cheap digital camera with a weather balloon, a styrofoam cooler and disposable hand warmers) to take what became stunning photos of the Earth from an estimated 93,000 feet — about 17.5 miles high, far above the cruising altitude of commercial airplanes, and dubbed the experiment Project Icarus after the Greek myth about a man who flew too close to the sun. The Federal Aviation Administration concluded that the experiment did appear to meet federal rules because the balloon’s payload was under four pounds but says future flights need a check-in with the FAA. While the duo are not the first to photograph the earth using helium-filled weather balloons, Yeh says his project is ground-breaking because it used $150 worth of off-the-shelf components, and no hardware-hacking was required, something that could be replicated by high school science classes.

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