Space exploration on a student budget

12 Sep 2012 17:14:42.767

PA 251/12

Most people are happy to look on in awe when they see images of our planet from outer space, but for one student at The University of Nottingham, it proved the inspiration to capture his own pictures.

On a modest budget of just £200, economics student Adam Cudworth used a second hand camera — bought on eBay — and a balloon to capture a series of striking images 110,210 ft (20 miles) above the Earth.

Describing the project as ‘a bit of a hobby’, Adam used what he had learnt during A’ Level physics as well as the coding modules taken as part of his degree, to engineer a device capable of surviving the stratospheric journey.

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Getting the perfect photo

He explained: “A couple of years ago I came across photos that showed the ‘blackness’ of space and curvature of the Earth, to my amazement they had been taken using a similar setup to mine. So, I set myself the challenge to do a similar project to capture even better photos.

“After a few years in preparation, navigating the various regulations and a little trial and error, the £30 Canon A570 camera captured some fantastic photos.”

This preparation required Adam to find a GPS system which would work at extremes of height and temperature, a reliable tracker allowing him to monitor the flight and retrieve the camera when it returned to earth and to convince the Civil Aviation Authority to allow him to launch the device.

An incredible achievement

After hearing about the achievement, Professor of Satellite Navigation at the University Terry Moore warned of the importance of seeking approval before launching such a device and of ensuring that it lands safely.

He continued: “I think it is quite incredible what Adam has accomplished on such a small budget, and on his own initiative, he is to be congratulated.”

“At The University of Nottingham we have been at the forefront of the development of GPS technology and applications for almost 30 years, with our research impacting on sectors as diverse as road, rail, air and maritime transport, land surveying, meteorological, environmental and climate studies, sport and security.

“Following on from this project, staff at the Nottingham Geospatial Institute would be happy to assist Adam with any similar challenges he wishes to pursue.”

A selection of images taken by Adam’s home-made device can be found on Flickr, while a video of the flight can be seen on YouTube.

— Ends — 

Notes to editors:
The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United KingdomChina and Malaysia. It is also the most popular university in the UK by 2012 application numbers, and ‘the world’s greenest university’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

Harry Waddle

Harry Waddle - Students Communications Officer

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 823 2353 Location: University Park

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