Attach a GPS enabled cellphone and a camera to a helium balloon and what happens?
Okay, Project Icarus, devised by MIT students, involved a little bit more than that, but it was still decidedly low-tech. The whole contraption cost $148 for everything — the balloon, the helium, the cellphone, the GPS tracking software, etc.
The launch was September 2.
The balloon reach an altitude of 93,000 feet (about 17.5 miles) taking photos all the way up. It went up for over 3 hours, entering near-space orbit, and was able to take photos of the curve of the Earth.
That's Long Island in the background.
At that point, it popped, and plunged to Earth (a 40 minute trip down). The GPS phone allowed the students to locate the package. (It was launched from Sudbury, Mass, and landed in Worcester, Mass.)
Read more at their website.