Are you proud of yourself because you figured out how to build a kick-ass dog house out of a refrigerator box? Do you high-five your friends every time you upgrade your computer without setting it on fire?
Then you might not want to read about the kind of do-it-yourself projects other people have going on. Your self-esteem might not be able to handle ...
Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh are two MIT students who decided they wanted to take a picture of the curvature of the Earth just for shits and giggles. They spent $148 on the project and got this photo for their efforts:
We, meanwhile, spent $148 on a used PSP.
So what does it take to pull off something like that? Well, besides having brains the size of Krang, they used a weather balloon, some helium, a Styrofoam cooler and duct tape. They put some break-and-shake hand warmers in the cooler to keep the cheap camera they used from freezing in the near-space altitude and stuck in a prepaid cellphone with GPS to track it.
The balloon being launched.
The balloon being de-launched.
It went 18 miles into the sky -- pretty short of the accepted edge of the atmosphere where space really begins (62 miles up), but still three times higher than an airliner. And we're totally prepared to call that thing they photographed up there "space." To give you an idea, when the balloon finally burst, the beer cooler took 40 minutes to hit the ground.
They specifically set out to keep the project as cheap as possible so they could crash and burn over and over again until they got it right (which they did on the first try). In case you want to follow on their brilliant coattails, you can find instructions for building your own balloon camera here.
And while that's awesome and all, you know what would be even better? If you could put a person up there. Which, by the way, is the goal of Kristian von Bengston and Peter Madsen of Copenhagen Suborbitals.
This is simultaneously the greatest and most terrible idea in the history of time.
The two men have been using donations to fund their project, which will make them the first non-government-funded group to send a human into space if they succeed. (If they fail, they'll retain their title of "two assholes with an orange tube.")
The cockpit is roughly as roomy and comfortable as a Pez dispenser, and there is no real navigation on board to speak of. The duo are hoping that once the craft's liquid oxygen fuel carries it up into space, their calculations and the "laws of aerodynamics" will safely guide its screaming cargo back to Earth for a water landing slowed by parachutes, just like the old Apollo missions, because nothing bad ever happened on those.
You know, sometimes it's easier to just shoot yourself in the head.