TechSpot means tech analysis and advice you can trust. Read our ethics statement.
More than two years ago, Bryan Chan and four of his friends launched a weather balloon into space. Its payload consisted of a GoPro Hero3 action camera, a Sony camcorder and a Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphone.
The plan was to send the balloon up to get some killer images and video of our planet. Once the balloon burst, the payload would plummet back to Earth and land in an area with cell phone coverage at which time an app would text them the GPS coordinates for recovery. Unfortunately, that never happened.
The team assumed their trajectory model was off which meant the gear came to rest in a cell signal dead zone. As it turns out, the AT&T wireless coverage map they used was inaccurate. The payload did land in the general area they expected (roughly 50 miles from the launch site) but without cell coverage, there was no way to find it. All hope was lost.
In an ironic twist of fate, a woman out on a hike (who happened to be an AT&T employee) recently stumbled across the phone in the desert. She took it to a retail store where employees were able to identify the SIM card and trace it back to its owner. A few weeks later, the team was reunited with their gear and surprisingly enough, all of the data it captured was intact.
The footage shows the balloon ascending for an hour and 27 minutes, reaching an altitude of 98,660 feet.