Remember that story about the guy who sent a GoPro to the stratosphere on a weather ballon and got it back two years later with incredible footage? No? Wow, your memory is short. Look, we wrote about it here.
Fast forward a few months, and now that same dude teamed up with four friends to tackle bigger, more ambitious projects. This time, the Night Crew Labs team sent a weather ballon into the stratosphere (the layer of the atmosphere, not the casino in Las Vegas) to record footage above the San Francisco Bay area. And boy, is it spectacular.
Beginning in The Presidio of San Francisco, the balloon strapped with five cameras and a whole bunch of other gear shot up to 91,470 ft in the sky (about 17 miles) as it traveled south along the Pacific Coast before it burst and tumbled to Earth near Salinas, California, about 100 miles from where things started. Along the way, the cameras captured all sorts of fantastic footage -- including aerial views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Monterey, but also of the edge of the planet looking off toward the sun.
"Our mission is to have unique perspectives of Earth that are hard to see, and showcase the beauty of Earth," Night Crew Labs co-founder Bryan Chan told Thrillist.
Logistically, the project provided plenty of challenges to the Night Crew Labs team. The weather didn't cooperate for much of December, as it was a particularly rainy time for the Bay Area. And trying to control the flight path of a balloon near an ocean, trying to get it to land between two mountain ranges, was already hard enough. But Federal Aviation Administration regulations required even more planning.
"There are lots of airports in San Francisco, so talking to the FAA, there were a lot of restrictions on where we could and could not launch this balloon," Chan said. "The FAA has a weight limit of 12 pounds, too, which is why we went with that red, 3D printed plastic design. You can't send an aluminum box, as every gram has to be considered."
But the crew figured it out, the clouds parted, and they eventually launched their balloon, netting their incredible shots, later compiled by a video editing friend of Chan's. This, however, is not the last video they plan to produce.
"Our ultimate goal with all this stuff is to go to Alaska or a northern latitude to record the Northern Lights from space," Chan said. "Nobody's really been able to do that before."
To that end, the Night Crew Labs team is currently seeking funding to make that project happen. And if it does, they hope to have the footage shot by the end of 2016.
"We're hoping this video puts us on the map," Chan said.
On the map, maybe. But it's hard to be on the map when you're living in the clouds -- literally.
If you're interested in making the Night Crew Labs next project happen, check out the team's website, or email email@example.com.
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Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. He's never been to space. Or Alaska. Or San Francisco, for that matter. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.