Balloon boy gets the space flight experience without dad going to jail

With just a weather balloon, some polystyrene an iPhone and a video camera, Luke Geissbuhler and his seven-year-old son Max experience the blackness of space - and it didn't involve Max risking his life.

Or not, as it so eventuated in the case of the UFO-chasing Heene family which made headlines for all the wrong reasons this time a year ago.

This time it was all wholesome family goodness, as the Brooklyn, US, team paired up eight months ago to begin their mission to send a camera "up to the stratosphere to film the blackness beyond our earth".
By housing it in a polystyrene box and attaching it to a weather balloon, they hoped the camera would rise until atmospheric pressure caused the balloon to burst and send the box and camera back to Earth.

During its journey, it would have survive temperatures of -51C and would be travelling at speeds of up to 240km/h on its return.

The pair rigged the box to deploy a parachute and added a GPS device which would transmit its location back to their mobile phone.

Pocket hand-warmers were added to shield the camera from cold and the capsule was insulated, waterproofed and contained a note written by Max asking anyone who found it to return it and claim a reward.

Foam collars on the balloon were used to stop the camera capsule from spinning, allowing father and son to watch it ascend into the atmosphere at a rate of around 500m a minute.
Foam collars on the balloon were used to stop the camera capsule from spinning, allowing father and son to watch it ascend into the atmosphere at a rate of around 500m a minute.

And ascend it did, last week on a fine day from a park in New York.

After 40 minutes, the craft was dealing with wind speeds of up to 160km/h.

When it was launched, the balloon was 40cm across. An hour into its ascent it had grown to nearly six metres in diameter.

Ten minutes later, the balloon burst - 30km above the Earth.

For a couple of agonising seconds, the burst balloon covered the camera, but after it freed itself, the Geissbuhlers watched it descend at speeds of up to 225km/h.

The couple found it again, unharmed, just 45km from the launch site, stuck 15m up a tree.

"They were very good but also very lucky," Columbia University Professor of Astronomy Marcel Aguera told www.wpix.com after learning of their success.

Sadly, the camera wasn't so lucky. Its batteries died at the 100-minute mark - just two minutes before it landed.

Nevertheless, while the balloon didn't make it to space proper - that would have required roughly another 30km altitude - the Geissbuhlers did achieve their goal of filming "the blackness".