These Guys Should Work for NASA

Suppose you wanted to get video from outer space, but you didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money.  What would you do?  For the cost of an iPhone (which was recovered), an HD video camera (also recovered), a parachute, some Styrofoam, tape, handwarmers, weights, and a balloon, these guys did it!

27 thoughts on “These Guys Should Work for NASA”

  1. If they can do that working with small resources like iPhones and hand warmers, imagine what they would do with NASA’s budget!

  2. Hey Dr Wile, what if a large scale spacecraft were made similar to this? Would it be possible to just use density and the cube-square law to lift a spacecraft vertically and then require less fuel to enter an orbit than necessary for purely heavier-than-air spacecraft? It might have to be fairly large in order to offset the weight of heavy cargo with low density gases like helium or hydrogen, but it might enable much larger materials to be ferried into space. IDK, is that a possibility or is it quantitatively infeasible?

    1. I am glad that you all liked the video!

      Ben, in answer to your question, you hit the nail on the head. The problem is the weight of the cargo. This ingenious plan worked because the payload was very light. Helium has a density of 0.18 g/L, while air has a density of 1.29 g/L at 0 Celsius. Thus, ignoring the weight of the balloon, you can lift roughly 1.11 grams for every liter of helium you use. The total mass of the Apollo Lunar Lander was 14,696 kg. Thus, you would need more than 13,000,000 liters of helium to lift that up. This is just a “back of the envelope” calculation, of course, so it just gives you a rough idea.

      You might wonder why not add some balloons just to negate some of the weight. The problem with that is when you give the rocket thrust, it will rise much faster than the balloons. As a result, the balloons just create drag.

  3. Create Drag? Why not POP. Huge temperature from the rocket engines, for the balloons that avoid actually being hit by the rocket. Of course if the balloons could expand under heat without popping then the density would go down so you wouldn’t need quite so much as 13 million.

  4. Well, I was thinking of a solid spacecraft made of some lightweight materials, but even going the route of having exterior balloons, they could be detached prior to firing rockets. They could provide lift and potential energy prior to expending fuel the rest of the way. Have lighter-than-air flight prior to powered flight. Also, using hydrogen would have more lift and require less volume to accommodate it.

  5. Given that helium has a density of 0.18 grams/Liter and hydrogen has a density of 0.090 g/L, or about half that of helium, hydrogen would thus be able to carry twice the load for the same volume of helium or require half the volume of hydrogen for the same load as helium.

  6. Going with the 1.3*10^7 Liters, which is 4.6*10^5 cubic feet, if the craft were to be spherical then its radius would be:

    V = (4/3)*π*r^3

    r^3 = V/[(4/3)*π]

    r = Cube root [3V/4π]

    r = Cube root [(3*4.6*10^5 cubic feet)/(4*3.14)]

    r = Cube root [(1.4*10^6 cubic feet)/(12.56)]

    r = Cube root [1.1*10^5]

    Radius = 48 feet, and the diameter is then 96 feet.

    1. Ben, think about a couple of other factors. Like I said, the weight of the balloon cannot be ignored, and also, you need something strong to hold the balloon to the cargo. That all adds to the weight. Also, it’s not the SIZE that is the big factor I was pointing out. It’s the COST of producing that much helium.

      Note that hydrogen won’t be able to lift twice as much. The lifting power is the DIFFERENCE between the density of air and the density of the other gas. Thus, while helium could lift about 1.11 grams, hydrogen could lift about 1.20 grams per liter.

  7. I realize that the value there is only considering the payload and the diameter calculated is the inner-diameter for that given shape. However, even at 100ft width it’s not so terribly large of a craft. After the craft has reached nearly maximum altitude via buoyancy(?) the air would then be thinner allowing for less force of drag and less wasted fuel. If most of the volume of the craft were to be contained in the length, like a blimp (which this is I suppose), then it would have less cross sectional surface area in opposition to the direction of travel. I suppose this is just a rehashing of 19th century technology though, but that in itself would be bad if it were to work.

  8. Dear Dr Wile,
    A truely amazing post. My sons want to try this as well… !
    Do you know HOW they popped the parachute?
    Kind regards

    1. They don’t say, but based on the test they show at the very beginning, I think it might have been set up to automatically deploy based on acceleration. The balloon would not accelerate it quickly, so a parachute that deploys at high acceleration would only open in free fall.

  9. Dear Dr. Wile,
    I came across your site while checking out the information about Laminin. I couldn’t find any place to make a comment at the end of that article so I chose to sneak in here to say something about the whole idea of proving or disproving that God exists or has done what the Bible says, and using science as the basis for establishing, one way or the other, if God created all of this, or not.

    As much as man would like to be able to verify God’s existence by scientific means God has chosen to reveal Himself to man through purely spiritual means. That way man can’t take credit for anything, which man has a habit of doing. Oh, I know that there are many things in science that reinforce the existence of God, but those are only there as appetizers to the unbelievers, and even with the knowledge that God gave us a perfect book in the Bible, that alone won’t make anyone a believer.

    Ivan Panin proved that the Bible is perfect using the science of mathematics and, that helps draw people to the knowledge that only a super being like God could have done all of this. However no one can truly understand or know God in the natural, because He is spirit and we can only interact with Him in the spiritual realm. I read some of the things on your blog and you seem to be occupied with proving the reality of what God did and in what length of time etc., but you miss the real point of Genesis because you don’t point out all of the facts about how what happened then totally connects to Jesus birth, and death, and resurrection.

    I won’t use up all your space to explain but, briefly; God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lest they die. They ate and, it appears they didn’t die. However when God created them He said He was making them in His image and likeness, which was a spiritual being. So He created them as spirits then in the 2nd chapter of Genesis He forms a body of clay and places the spiritual man He created into that body. Now when God told them they would die if they ate from the forbidden tree He was not talking about the vessel of flesh but, rather the spiritual man that the body held. So when they ate they did die spiritually, evidenced by their eyes being opened to the things of the world and that they were naked etc..

    Now when Jesus said “You must be born again,” He was referring to the restoration of life to the spirit of each man as he or she chooses to accept His sacrifice for their redemption. In other words the spiritual part of man had to be brought back to life in order for him to communicate with and relate to his creator. This is available to anyone who chooses to accept it, but is not thrust upon us without our wanting it. Born again Christians are three part beings just as Adam was, spirit soul and body, and are complete beings again. When a person declares that they believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died and was resurrected to give them eternal (spiritual) life He sends the Holy Spirit to breath life back into that person’s spirit and they become a child of God.

    Recently I saw a movie on the life of Temple Grandin, a woman who is autistic and is able to recall every single incident that has occurred in her life down to being able to remember every piece of clothing she ever wore. She doesn’t find it unusual that she can do that because she has total recall and thinks everyone else should be able to do it too.
    I’ve heard it said that man only uses a fraction of the brain power he has and if she is any indication of what even a mere human can do, given the right circumstances, imagine what the mind of God must be like. Actually, we can’t imagine that, it’s way beyond or comprehension. Suffice it to say, if our forefather Adam, hadn’t made such a foolish choice this whole world would be very different.

    There are so many fascinating things in the correlation of Genesis and the rest of the Bible and the things Jesus taught it would take pages and pages to recount all of it. The fabric of truths that God set forth in His book are so intertwined and meshed together, one can spend a lifetime searching things out and never be completely finished.

    I hope I wasn’t out of line by putting this here.

    1. James, thanks for your comment. WordPress (the software that runs this blog) turns off comments after a certain length of time. I think you need to spend more time reading my blog, because I certainly am not engaged in “proving the reality of what God did and in what length of time etc.” I am simply commenting on how science interacts with Christianity.

      While I agree that you cannot verify God’s existence with science, you are quite wrong when you say “God has chosen to reveal Himself to man through purely spiritual means.” Indeed, the Bible clearly states in several places that God also reveals Himself through His creation. Romans 1:20 explicitly tells us that God’s invisible attributes are made evident in creation so that no one is without excuse when it comes to belief. Job 12:7-10 tells us that we are to ask the beasts, speak to the earth, and let the fish teach us about God. Psalm 19:1,2 tells us that the heavens are declaring the glory of God. Thus, God does reveal Himself through nature as well as through His divine Word.

      The view that man uses only a fraction of his brain power is probably not true. It is certainly not based on any serious experimental evidence.

      I also disagree that Ivan Panin “proved that the Bible is perfect.” I would encourage you to read some serious analysis of his work. You can find some here, here, and here.

  10. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that God doesn’t reveal Himself through other means to the natural man because, obviously He does. What I was referring to was the spiritual awareness of Himself and that conversion is spiritual not intellectual, though we do become mentally aware that we have been changed that comes through faith not reasoning. I can know all there is to know about God and still not KNOW Him. That’s the sense I was talking about.

    As for Panin I have researched quite a bit about him and his work and I would issue the same challenge he did, let someone produce similar results on their own or prove his calculations wrong. That hasn’t happened yet that I’m aware of though some try their best to discredit him and his findings. Panin said anyone can check it out for themselves but as Robinson says it’s difficult because you have to be able to read and understand Greek, Hebrew and Chaldee. So just because it’s hard to comprehend doesn’t make it incorrect. Also Panin did publish a numeric New Testament using the findings he discovered so anyone can see for themselves if he’s right or wrong.

    As for the brain power; Gen 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

    Doesn’t sound like they were just puppets that God was controlling, does it? Actually God put them in charge of all that was on earth and supposedly the intelligence to accomplish His commands, however that command was given to that original spiritual man, and after they disobeyed all that was left was the natural man and he was not capable of doing those things so somehow our brains lack the complete ability God had placed in the original Adam, but every so often someone will, albeit with a handicap, display the amazing ability God had intended for man to have.

    I am not very intellectual or erudite, so I appreciate people who are, and express their faith in God publicly, as you are doing. However the scientific community as a whole still tries to sell the Big Bang Theory, and I am always amazed that those among us who have been given the ability and opportunity to develop their brains, don’t seem to be able to discern the truth of God’s word. I know the natural man believes we can solve all the problems if we get educated enough or just apply reasoning to the situation, but the truth is we’ve been educating for a long time and the further we progress the worse we become. Thanks for encouraging young people to understand creation.

    1. James, thanks for clarifying. I certainly agree that the conversion to Christianity is a spiritual experience. However, I was led to that spiritual experience by the scientific evidence. There are others who had the same experience. Clark Pinnock is a well-known theologian who had to be convinced of the rationality of Christianity before he could come to Christ. He is credited with saying, “My heart cannot delight in what my mind rejects as false.”

      I think you should read the links I gave you, because someone HAS done exactly what Panin requested. They have shown that these patterns show up in many, many works. Here is one example, and here is another, and here is another, all accessible from one of the links I gave previously.

      I certainly agree that God did not create puppets, but that has little to do with whether or not people use all their brain power. God gave us incredible brains, and there is no reason to suspect that there is some “hidden” power we need to keep the dominion mandate. And once again, there is simply no evidence to suggest that we don’t use the majority of our brain power.

      The scientific community certainly does try to sell the prevailing dogma of the day, and the Big Bang Theory is a part of that dogma. However, those of us who are committed to following the data understand the difference between blind conjecture and evidence-based theories. That is why there are so many credentialed scientists fighting the prevailing scientific dogma of the day. I understand your amazement at the people who are intelligent but do not understand the truth of God’s word. My scientific training led me to Christ, and I am astounded by those who are better scientists than I and yet have not discerned that simple truth.

      I am not sure I agree with the statement, “the further we progress the worse we become.” It is not clear to me that today’s society is any more evil (or less truly Christian) than any other time in history. History has shown that humans have an enormous capacity for good and an enormous capacity for evil. I don’t see that we are using our capacity for evil any more now than in previous generations. Indeed, it seems to me that the church is, overall, more on track with the Scriptures today than ever before, especially in the developing world. However, I could very well be wrong about that, as I am not much of a historian, sociologist, or student of the trends in Christendom.

  11. Dr. Jay, regarding the last paragraph of your last comment: Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” That doesn’t mean it will be a visible, tangible increase, of course, but it’s promised to always be on the rise.

    Modern technology has certainly enhanced my personal spiritual walk in some ways–with an app for my iPhone, I’m able to instantly access over a dozen translations of the Bible, along with many other reference texts any time of the day. Not to mention, the one app comes with the ability to select and configure daily reading plans, so I’ve read through the Bible over 1.5 times since I got my first iPhone, with only a handful of days that I’ve missed (but subsequently made up). Essentially, it’s been an easy way to hold myself accountable.

  12. I’m with Jason. I’m very motivated by what is interesting me at the moment, so most of my theological and historical studies come from researching random issues on the internet when they interest me. I couldn’t do that if the only way to get the information I needed was to hike to the nearest town and consult an ancient scribe.

  13. “Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.”

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