2nd Annual Global Space Balloon Challenge


As part of World Space Week, we are proud to announce the 2nd Annual Global Space Balloon Challenge (GSBC), the world’s largest high altitude balloon event! The challenge is simple – coordinate people around the world to design, build, and fly a high altitude balloon anytime between April 10th and April 27th, 2015.

In our inaugural challenge, 57 teams from 18 countries and 6 continents launched and recovered their payloads.Participants ranged from students and teachers, from experienced teams to those launching for the first time, and from college kids to children and their parents. Teams created their own zero pressure balloon, radios, and flight termination units to measure the ozone, magnetic field, humidity, temperature, and more. We encourage you to see some of the most amazing achievements and stories on our site.


This year we are hoping to make the GSBC bigger and better and we need YOUR help. Registration will officially open when our new website launches on November 17th, 2014 and both experienced teams and people who have never launched a HAB before are encouraged to join! We are also looking for community organizers to become official parts of the GSBC organization and help recruit teams from their areas. Please head to our current website to be notified when registration opens or to join the effort as a community organizer or advisor – any and all help and feedback is most welcome!

Join us and let your ideas fly to the edge of space! GSBC Team

Papercraft Stop-Motion Animation in Sci-Fi Music Video

The new music video from French trio Ödland takes DIY special effects to a whole other world by using elaborately constructed papercraft settings for their cosmic stop-motion animations.


The video, called “Après Avoir Décroché Les Étoiles” (After Earning The Stars), follows the band as they explore a strange and desolate planet called Ödland, where they enter a dilapidated structure that turns out the be a spaceship, which takes them back to Earth. Director of the video, and Ödland’s synth player, Lorenzo Papace explained that the video was made over 6 months while the band travelled through the former USSR and remnants of Soviet architecture reminiscent of the Space Race feature prominently in the video.



Not only does this video feature an epic space adventure rendered in paper, but the music even features eerie theremin sounds, as you can see the band demonstrate in the video below.

Ödland’s video has some stunning similarities to another recent DIY stop-motion animated music video by metal band Throne, which was made with digitally embroidered patches. DIY music videos are the best.

[via the creator’s project]

Mission Control Play Station

missioncontrol-playingWith the 45th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon (by friend of Maker Camp Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong), your little ones may want to re-live the magic of those exciting mid-century days when we owned the future, and it was out of this world. Ambitious parents may want to take on Jeff Highsmith’s Mission Control Desk to realize the space-age fantasies of their little astronauts.

habitot_rocket_ship_mission_controlOur family doesn’t have that kind of time, so when we needed a Mission Control to entertain 2000+ trick-or-treating neighbors for our “Apolloween XIII” installation last October, I remembered the wonderful upcycled hack I saw at a children’s museum in Berkeley, California, called Habitot. They cemented broken phones and keyboards onto a long table (above left, from the museum’s website), forming a hodge-podge of buttons and interaction. It was brilliant. When my own boys were toddlers, they were entertained for nearly an hour racing between this mini mission control and the adjacent rocket.

When we built and put out a similar play station on Halloween, we found that kids would hang out in our driveway for up to 45 minutes, forsaking the collection of candy on the rest of our block so that they could spin the dial on the phone or push every single button we put out for them to play with.

On November 1st, we moved Mission Control to the backyard, and I have to say my kids played with it constantly until the upcoming rainy season forced me to dismantle it. This DIY play space / space station is galactic-scale fun.

STS-128_MCC_space_station_flight_control_room 800px-Gemini_Mission_Control_-_GPN-2000-001405-Gemini5-1965

For our design, first I consulted the images I found in the historical NASA photos, as above. Mission control in Houston had keyboards and phones and screens of all kinds. Our design, too, would be a busy, cluttered and colorful environment.

I tend not to throw things of possible future usefulness away, and I brake for free boxes and yard sales, so I had a lot technojunk and toys (both working and broken) that I could add to the control panel.


Roughly clockwise from upper left in the photo above, you can see some of the items that we added to our interface to outer space:

  1. A broken, extended keyboard by Apple (from a free box)
  2. A Casio keyboard with sound effects (a favorite of my boys)
  3. Some kind of pressure gauge I got at a yard sale
  4. Two Etch-a-sketch toys: small traditional red one and also an animated one
  5. A black Franklin language translator from the 80s or 90s
  6. A computer mouse
  7. Another busted keyboard
  8. A Magnadoodle
  9. A label-maker
  10. A tape recorder, another favorite of the boys (what is that?)
  11. An iPhone-shaped water play game with a satisfying button to push
  12. Broken weather monitor
  13. A magnetic drawing toy (the kind with a grid of divots and lots of little metal balls that can be moved with a magnet pen)
  14. A glow-in-the-dark surface
  15. Two combo locks his combinations have been forgotten
  16. A vacation lamp timer
  17. An old Soviet rotary phone that I found in a free box (score!)
  18. A Fisher-Price activity center from the 70s
  19. A noise makerWith a yellow turn the handle
  20. An old Nokia phone
  21. Another Magnadoodle
  22. A brass desk toy with a spinner for executives to make decisions
  23. Lots of odds and ends from our invention box/junk drawer, mostly colorful bottle caps and such

For the base, we scavenged a box from a nearby auto body repair shop, roughly 2′ x 4′ x 8′ in size. It probably held a replacement car bumper. We painted it white using at least two layers of house paint left over from previous tenants.

Probably the most tedious part that I added to the design (compared to the Habitot design) was to lay out all the toys and junk and cut out windows so that all of the controls were basically at the same height. While this hid the labels and made the fantasy a little easier to imagine, I don’t think it improved the quality of play enough to justify the excessive amount of time required to take this step. Cardboard does not cut as cleanly as one would like, and I’d skip this part of my process if I were to do this again.


Want a Free Trip to Orbit With NASA?

PhoneSat 1.0 during a high-altitude balloon test.

PhoneSat 1.0 during a high-altitude balloon test.

One of the initiatives introduced by President Obama today at the White House Maker Faire is an “announcement of opportunity” from NASA for CubeSat developers—intended to broaden the reach of existing programs to people who have no previous experience building hardware intended for space. The call is aimed directly at the 21 “rookie states” with no CubeSat presence, and will leverage the Space Grant network of colleges and universities.

There have been people building amateur satellites since 1960. The first amateur satellite, AMSAT‘s OSCAR 1, was flown as a secondary payload to Discoverer 36 onboard a Thor-Agena rocket in December 1961—just four years after the launch of the world’s first satellite, Sputnik I, by the Soviet Union.

A scale model of the OSCAR 1 satellite—built by the members of Project OSCAR—housed at the National Air and Space Museum.

A scale model of the OSCAR 1 satellite—built by the members of Project OSCAR—housed at the National Air and Space Museum.

Every launch vehicle has ballast onboard used to trim the flight characteristics—intended to move the centre of mass towards the middle of the rocket—usually the weight is a piece of lead or something similar. The OSCAR 1 took advantage of the fact and was designed in a wedge shape to fit exactly in place of one of the weights used to balance the payload in the rocket stage. It was operational for 22 days, broadcasting “Hi” from its onboard beacon before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere

Dreamed up in the late 90’s the CubeSat—an open source architecture that lets you pack anything you want into the 10cm × 10cm × 10cm cube so long as it weighs less than 1kg—has become an accepted standard in the launch business, and makes use of exactly the same space in the rocket. But these days the microsatellites fly on most launches, and NASA has a mandate that every launch vehicle they charter has the ability to deploy them, providing the opportunity for makers to build small satellites, and to demonstrate new innovative technologies and conduct scientific research in a space environment.

PhoneSat 2.5 launched onboard the SpaceX CRS-3 mission to the ISS.

PhoneSat 2.5 launched onboard the SpaceX CRS-3 mission to the ISS.

Deployed in orbit from a standard launcher—called a P-POD—which uses springs to push the microsatellites away from the primary launch vehicle, the orbit your satellite gets is entirely determined by what your rocket provider has sold you. Most likely your satellite will enter a standard 250km or so nearly circular orbit, either equatorial or polar. Such an orbit will last—because of drag by the tenuous ionosphere—somewhere between 3 and 16 weeks before the satellite will reenter the atmosphere and burn up.

“There is a big push for the miniaturization of satellites. The CubeSat classification is such that a 1U CubeSat is just 10cm cubed, a 2U is 10x10x20cm, and a 3U is 10x10x30cm—you get the idea. That really isn’t much room for all of the control systems, electrical systems, propulsion systems, etc., and don’t forget to leave room for the payload science. The use of Arduino, cell phones and custom miniaturized systems are in high demand. The neat thing is that the cost to build a satellite has shrunk dramatically. College students are building them as senior design projects. We hope to see a reduction in launch costs and an increase in launch opportunities so that all of these satellites can fly their science.” — Sam Ortega, manager of the Centennial Challenges Program at NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL

There is a huge range of CubeSat builds from simple beacons, much like OSCAR 1, built by schools and amateurs in their garages, to much more complicated spacecraft testing cutting-edge technologies like new types of rocket propulsion, or even interplanetary spacecraft launched towards Venus.

NASA even uses the CubeSat themselves as part of its Small Spacecraft Technology Program, where they’re experimenting building satellites using consumer-grade, off-the-shelf technologies like smartphones and the Arduino platform. SkyBox Imaging—recently acquired by Google for $500 million—also makes use of the standard CubeSat form factor, as does PlanetLabs who own and operate the largest constellation of Earth imaging satellites in the world.

So if you’re thinking about building a CubeSat, and you’re in one of those 21 “rookie” states, then look out for the Announcement of Opportunity later in the year from NASA.

white-house2President Obama is hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire to recognize the contributions of makers who bring creativity and technical ability to a broad range of projects. If you are a maker or a friend of makers, please become an advocate for expanding opportunities for making and makers in your community.

To show your support for growing the maker community, we encourage you to sign the “Building Maker Communities” pledge and put yourself on the map!

New Makers Building Parts for the Space Station


The Made in Space team tests their printer in a weightless environment using a parabolic airplane flight.

One of the initiatives announced by President Obama today at the White House Maker Faire is a new NASA program intended to inspire a new generation of space enthusiasts. The Future Engineers program will give middle and high school students the opportunity to design items to be 3D printed on board the International Space Station (ISS) using the first 3D printer designed to operate in Zero G.

The printer, designed and built by U.S.-based Made in Space, has been especially designed for the station and recently passed final NASA certification and testing ahead of schedule. Its launch has been moved up, and the printer is now scheduled for SpaceX‘s CRS-4 mission in August this year.

“Our first 3D printer will be capable of building an estimated 30% of the parts that NASA has already needed to repair on the ISS. Astronauts will use it to build everything from new tools and hardware to emergency fixes that previously cost millions of dollars to build on the ground and launch to space,” Jason Dunn, CTO for Made In Space.

Starting this summer, the program will involve students in solving real-world space exploration challenges. The winning design will be printed using the Made In Space printer aboard the International Space Station—making it one of the first parts in history to be manufactured in space—and the winning student will be watching it print from NASA’s Payload Operations Center right alongside the mission control team.

“Imagine having your experiment installed and operated on the space station without ever needing to launch a single item. Or even having your very own satellite launched into space without ever touching the hardware. This isn’t science fiction, this is actually happening, and you can be a part of it.”  Jason Dunn, CTO for Made In Space.

More information about the program can be found at on the program’s website.

Badge_160x160President Obama is hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire to recognize the contributions of makers who bring creativity and technical ability to a broad range of projects. If you are a maker or a friend of makers, please become an advocate for expanding opportunities for making and makers in your community. To show your support for growing the maker community, we encourage you to sign the “Building Maker Communities” pledge and put yourself on the map!

Launching $125,000 into space

The ISEE-3 spacecraft.

The ISEE-3 spacecraft.

With three days still left to go on their crowdfunding campaign, the hackers behind the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project who wanted to recover the ISEE-3 spacecraft and return it to service, have passed their funding goal.

The project team is still looking for further funding however — another $25,000 — so they can use NASA’s Deep Space Network to range the spacecraft, and their crowdfunding campaign has been extended for another week to help reach that “stretch goal.”

Right now the team is waiting for the Space Act Agreement with NASA to be forwarded to the lawyers for final review — it should be signed in the next day or two — before proceeding. But at least at the moment they’re on track to make first contact with the spacecraft as early as the start of next week.

While the Morehead State University 21-meter dish will act as the primary ground station during the mission to reboot communications, until mid-July — when the spacecraft is within 2 to 3 million km of the Earth — it doesn’t have the power to establish a two-way communications link. The first attempt to contact the spacecraft will therefore be from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Contacting the spacecraft as early as possible is crucial as every day that passes the ISEE-3 moves a quarter million miles (roughly the distance between the Earth and the Moon) closer to Earth, and each day that passes increases the the length of the burn — and hence the fuel — needed to make the necessary trajectory correction to position the probe into an orbit where it can produce some interesting science.

Send Your Project into Space


Give your experimental project a ride on this sub-orbital spacecraft.

Space is not just the final frontier. It’s the citizen-science frontier. And it’s getting easier to participate.

Edward Wright, the founder and president of the United States Rocket Academy, and project manager of Citizens in Space, came to MakerCon to announce the new Lynx Cub Payload Carrier, which will enable more citizen scientists to send small experiments into space.

Citizens in Space has purchased ten sub-orbital flights on the XCORE Lynx spacecraft, and will be making them available for citizen space projects.

The core of the program is the Lynx Cub Payload Carrier, which can house up to 15 experiments at a time. It can carry experiments in areas like materials processing, fluid mechanics, and life sciences.

Citizens in Space has already heard from high school students and medical school professors. They are hoping to hear from you. The call for experiments is still open at Citizens in Space.

Lunar Eclipse Time Lapse How-To, and Other Creative Space-Photo Projects

Image (1) eclipse-time-lapse.gif for post 47894

English teachers hate it when you open a paper with expansive declarative statements like “since the dawn of humankind,” but in this case I’m pretty sure it’s accurate: Since the dawn of humankind, lunar and solar eclipses have captured our imaginations. Our understanding of them has changed through the years from messages from the gods to predictable moments of celestial alignment, but experiencing an eclipse (especially as a kid) is a singular experience, and it’s even better if you catch it on film.

And in case you missed Tuesday’s Lunar Eclipse (or have your ticket to Australia for the best look at April 29’s solar eclipse), here’s a quick and easy way to setup a time-lapse session for next time. Make: reader Nathan writes:

I put my camera on a tripod, and watched the time. I took a photo about every minute, and compiled them into an animated GIF in Photoshop. Here’s more info: I used a 1/10sec exposure with ISO 50, and f8.0. I could only zoom 3x with the A95 though. I cropped and layered the photos together in Photoshop and used the animation tool to align them. I left a 1sec first and last frames, and gave the rest a 0.1 sec delay.

Nikon_125x125_jb1But you don’t have to wait for the next eclipse to get some cool shots. Check out these other camera projects, and don’t forget to submit your own awesome photo how-to in our Make: The Shot contest, with great prize packages supplied by Nikon.

Enter Contest Now!

Timelapse Night Sky

Learn how to capture the night sky — in motion! — with this complete tutorial covering camera settings, night shooting tips, image editing, and video production.

See the full project.


At 100,000 feet, a balloon-mounted camera can capture the curvature of the Earth.

At 100,000 feet, a balloon-mounted camera can capture the curvature of the Earth.

Near-Space Balloon Cam

Build this battle-tested rig to launch, track, and recover a high-altitude balloon that will carry your hacked Canon camera to the stratosphere. With this setup using APRS ham radio and the Trackuino — an Arduino-based communications board — any hobbyist or science class can photograph (and video) the Earth against the blackness of space, and bring these amazing images home to share.

See the full project.


Camcorder rocket

Rocket Launched Camcorder

Hack a $30, single-use camcorder to make it reusable, then launch it up in a model rocket and capture thrilling astronaut’s-view footage of high-speed neighborhood escape and re-entry.

See the full project.


Baloon Imaging

Balloon Imaging “Satellite”

Snap aerial photos from 300′ up by suspending a hacked camera from 3 helium balloons.

See the full project.

Crowdfunding the Recovery of a Lost Spacecraft

The ISEE-3 spacecraft.

The ISEE-3 spacecraft.

The hackers behind the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project  have moved on to a different challenge. Not content with images, this time they want to recover a whole spacecraft.

The ISEE-3 probe was launched in 1978. After completing it’s original mission—it was the first spacecraft ever to enter a halo orbit at one of the Earth-Sun Lagrangian points—studying the interaction between the Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind, it was repurposed—leaving its halo orbit. The spacecraft was then sent on its way to intercept Comet Giacobini-Zinner in 1985, and then Comet Halley in 1986 as part of the Halley Armada. Afterwards, left in a heliocentric orbit, it was then used for  investigations of coronal mass ejections until 1997 when it was decommissioned by NASA.

However after the Comet Halley encounter in the 80’s the ISEE-3 was intentionally left in an orbit that would—eventually—bring the 35 year old spacecraft home, and if Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing have their way, it’ll return to a warm welcome from its creators.

They’ve set up a crowdfunding effort to cover the costs of getting back in contact with the spacecraft, and ordering it to fire its thrusters one last time to put it into Earth orbit. The intricate trajectory necessary to make that happen—including a flyby of the Moon at an altitude of less than 50 km—has already been calculated by Robert Farquhar, the original mission design specialist from ISEE-3’s Halley encounter.

Our plan is simple: we intend to contact the ISEE-3 (International Sun-Earth Explorer) spacecraft, command it to fire its engine and enter an orbit near Earth, and then resume its original mission – a mission it began in 1978.

If successful ISEE-3 will spend its retirement as a platform for citizen science, with smartphone apps—and a twitter feed—giving students direct access to the instruments onboard the ageing spacecraft.

The instrumentation carried by the ISEE-3 spacecraft.

The instrumentation carried by the ISEE-3 spacecraft.

While the spacecraft carries no imaging cameras, 12 of the probes 13 onboard instruments were still working back in 1999—the  last time NASA contacted the spacecraft—and it’d be a powerful tool in the hands of educators allowing amateurs and students access to instrumentation to measure plasma, high-energy particles and the magnetic fields in Earth orbit.

This is a great opportunity to put what is still world class instrumentation into the hands of the community. But orbital dynamics means that there’s only one chance to do so, and contact must be reestablished with the probe in late May or early June to ensure that the burn into Earth orbit happens during the correct window—and there are just 24 days left to find the money to do it.

Space Robots, Mars Rovers, and NASA Scientists coming to Maker Faire Bay Area


The NorCal Mars Society is making better rovers for human planetary exploration.

The NorCal Mars Society is making better rovers for human planetary exploration.

Space exploration is a dream near and dear to many makers’ hearts and is a great way to encourage kids’ interest in math and science. But it doesn’t take a government agency to put a satellite into space anymore. From crowdsourcing space initiatives and micro satellites to bringing makerspaces to Mars, these makers will be showing off the latest and greatest developments and challenges in space research at Maker Faire Bay Area on May 17-18.



NorCal Mars Rover Project

The NorCal Mars Society is back at Maker Faire to show off their rover prototypes and convince you that our future is on the red planet.



pisces project

Pisces Project

The Canadian Space society aims to create two fish-like robots “equipped with cameras/ sensors/tools to: assist in monitoring the environment in/outside the space station, aid astronauts on missions, or take the public on live virtual tours of the space station.”




From maker Liam Kennedy about his Raspberry Pi-powered tracker:

The International Space Station passes overhead most populated areas of the world every day. If only you knew it was there. ISS-Above lights up when the ISS is nearby, but that’s not all. It can also tweet a message to the Space Station and it has its own built-in web server to give you a ton of information about current and future passes.


Personal Cosmos takes data like temperature readings or satellite images and projects it onto the inside of a spherical display. Keep track of what’s happening on Earth or even map data from the moon or Mars.



SpaceGAMBIT – Hackerspace Space Program

From Program Manager Jerry Isdale:

SpaceGAMBIT is a 2 year $500k US Government (DARPA) grant funded project to get makers involved in Space education, research and development. We will present summary of the projects funded in first year and talk about our 2nd year projects. The first of our year 2 endeavors is a ”Portable Workstation Contest” with Instructables.com which will be concluding about the time of the Bay Area Maker Faire.