Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rocket man and the Near Space Circus

Space = rockets

That's what we tend to equate, cause we love them rockets... And, to reach space, it does require a rocket of some sort, at this point. To "explore" space however, at a minimum, only requires a cloudless night, away from the city, and there, with the naked eyes, you can watch the stars, not just a few, but hundreds (some apparently can see upwards of 3000!). Or perhaps you choose a full moon. One can get pretty close even with a 35mm or digital camera with a modest zoom and a tripod.

The Moon, Sept. 9th 2014, DSLR at 270MM

Albedo 0.39

The Moon is nice and all, and is great for black and white photography. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there was an interesting talk back in 2012 by Fred Alger, at PyCarolinas: "Sysadmining Python to the Moon". But the blue planet, the earth is a lot more impressive (picture from that talk):


Except that we are back to rockets again? Or are we? Both Fred's talk and mine that year talked about a near space option.

Near Space

Weather balloons will get you into near space. Space officially starts at 100KM, but one can reach 35-40KM with a latex balloon filled with Helium. Add a parachute, a radar reflector and a payload, and you have your own little private launch and recovery system.

And nowadays, the payload options are numerous. The main thing is that we are no longer limited to sending microcontrollers, but can send actual computers running an operating system, and executing Python code.

An obvious candidate is the Raspberry Pi. Dave Akerman (whom I had mentionned in my talk) has been sending them into space for well over two years now. So when he sent a tweet earlier this month about the Global Space Balloon Challenge, I knew this would be the perfect project for our local Python user group, using a payload with Raspbian Linux and Python on a Raspberry Pi model A+. So many projects are possible within this project.

Hence, Team Near Space (Flying) Circus was born. Let's hope the snake and the penguin will play nice up there...


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