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Paper plane's spectacular photographs of the Earth from 23 miles up

By This is Devon  |  Posted: November 05, 2010

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STUNNING pictures of the curvature of the Earth have been captured by a team who dropped a paper plane from a balloon 23 miles above earth.

The project, which included Steve Daniels from Paignton, saw the plane and camera released from a helium-filled weather balloon almost 90,000ft above Spain.

The trio, who said they "did it for a laugh", have now been challenged by an Australian team who say they can do better.

Steve said the project came about after someone undertook a similar challenge with a piece of cheese.

"Somebody launched a bit of cheese out of a balloon, which we thought was stupid. We thought we could do something more technical than that. We decided to launch a paper plane because nobody has done that before," he said.

Steve is unemployed but normally works in IT and said he would happily take on a team from Down Under.

He explained that the project, which cost around £8,000, involved putting the plane, made from paper straws and covered in paper, inside a helium-filled weather balloon and sending it into the atmosphere. It was sponsored by Peer One Networking.

He said that as the balloon rose the helium expanded, eventually causing the balloon to burst, setting the plane free. A camera attached to the plane captured the moment the balloon burst and photographed some stunning images of the curvature of the earth.

The plane was recovered intact thanks to Steve's tracking skills.

He came across the project on IT website The Register and asked the guys setting it up how they were going to track the plane to the ground. But they hadn't thought about it.

He explained: "The other two guys are reporters on The Register and announced they were going to launch this plane. I inquired as to how they were going to find it once they launched it. I ended up working with them setting out all the tracking.

"I got involved basically because I asked the question," he said.

Steve attached a satellite navigation system to the device and linked it to a radio that transmitted, the information into a laptop and plotted it on a map.

"It was excellent fun. If anybody wanted me to do it again I am more than up for it. It seems really silly but it was brilliant fun.

"Nobody had ever done it before, we were worried about what could go wrong. It was a little bit stressful."

But despite their concerns the launch was successful and the plane landed intact, not far from a track.

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  • Profile image for This is Devon
    Geoff, Torquay  |  November 05 2010, 1:25PM

    PARIS makes NASA look a bit over the top He He. The Register is brilliant and always seem to have stories others either don't publish or publish much later.

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    Eponym, Torquay  |  November 05 2010, 10:50AM

    Congratulations to Steve and the other members of the PARIS team - I followed your progress via the el reg bulletins with avid attention.