VIDEO: Explore the Grand Canyon from the Stratosphere!

October 1, 2015 | Sarah Tse

Photo credit: Bryan Chan

Two years after launching a GoPro camera on a weather balloon, a group of friends finally, miraculously recovered their camera and the amazing footage it caught of the Grand Canyon from vertiginous heights.

In early 2013, a group of friends took on an ambitious project. They decided to launch a weather balloon into the stratosphere above the Grand Canyon with several goals in mind: researching the fluid dynamics of turbulence in the stratosphere, testing GPS capabilities in smartphones, and taking great photos and video footage of the beautiful natural monument. After a few months of planning and preparation, they were ready to launch the balloon from a site from which the calculated trajectory would land the phone in an area with cell coverage. But the maps provided by AT&T turned out to be inaccurate, and the group lost track of the phone's signal as it fell back to Earth.

In an ironic twist of fate, an AT&T worker hiking through the Arizona desert stumbled across the phone over two years after its original June 2013 launch. She brought the phone to an AT&T store, where its SIM card traced it back to the team. They received their data and footage within weeks, allowing them to compile this spellbinding video. The phone had landed about 50 miles away from the launch site, which makes its eventual recovery that much more astounding.

For the full story, check out a Reddit post made by one of the team members. You can also read more about the science and engineering behind the project here.

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