A group of students captured stunning video of the Grand Canyon from the stratosphere by using a weather balloon, but it was two years before they were able to see and share it with the world.
That's because the remnants of the popped weather balloon—GoPro camera and smartphone included—went missing for two years before finally being found recently by a hiker whose association with AT&T helped find the students.
In June 2013, the students launched the weather balloon a few miles from Tuba City, Arizona, close to the Grand Canyon.
The balloon climbed to a maximum altitude of 98,664 feet or 18.6 miles during a 1-hour, 38-minute flight, capturing amazing views before popping and returning to Earth.
"We used GPS on a smartphone to continuously log the phone’s location on its memory card," Chan explained on Reddit. "The standard GPS receiver these days can track your phone well above 100,000 feet…We used an app to have the phone text us its GPS location once it got a signal as it was returning to Earth.
"We planned our June 2013 launch at a specific time and place [so] that the phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage. The problem was that the coverage map we were relying on (looking at you, AT&T) was not accurate, so the phone never got [a] signal as it came back to Earth, and we never heard from it."
So, me and some friends launched a weather balloon in Arizona. Here's an awesome picture of Earth that the side GoPro captured at around 98,000 ft. The Grand Canyon is near the top left part of the frame. Launch video here: <a class=”youtube-link” href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EABQ5psUz70″>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EABQ5psUz70</a>
Ironically, two years later, a woman hiker employed by AT&T found the phone and camera in the barren desert, 50 miles from the launch site, and tracked down one of the students via the SIM card.
"We got the footage and data a few weeks later!" Chan explained.
And now the world is enjoying the views, which are made all the more impressive considering the amazing story.