High Schoolers’ Camera Project Featuring Views of Earth Returns to Them After 8 Years

It’s one of those amazing stories powered by the bravado of teenager imagination, the kind of project that certainly would have been lost if not for the wheel of fate. It began with eight Japanese high schoolers in Iida, Nagano Prefucture, sent up an ambitious concept to the heavens, which happened to be a smartphone attached to a weather balloon.

Back in November 2012, the teens launched their class project, expecting it to quickly parachute back to earth after meeting the stratosphere. They mindfully opted to start the smartphone’s voyage west of Nagano, to avoid dense settlements or airports, which could have possibly caused undue harm or issues. Unfortunately, after the device reached 1,000 meters of altitude, the signal was completely lost. The students went searching for possible landing points but never retrieved it, and reasonably came to the conclusion that their project was lost on re-entry.

Enter Toshiharu Suto, a forester working in the Tokigawa woods, an area that lacked any cellular reception. Toshiharu was in the process of felling a tree when he spotted a small parachute and box trapped in its branches. Once the tree was down, he located contact information of Tomoyuki Fukuzawa, the students’ teacher at the school they had since graduated from.

Sota Shimizu is now 26 years old, the student who originally led the group project. On receipt of the camera, he was delighted to find that the video captured by the device was intact, and absolutely gorgeous. A two-minute cut of this video has been posted to The Mainichi and it’s a glorious sight to behold, presenting a view of our planet entirely directed by near-decade-old technology and the plucky ambition of high school students. The likelihood of this video document actually being found and made available for all to see seems so minute, and we’re grateful and lucky to share the bounty alongside these students.

Cover photo: A frame grab from a video taken from a balloon released by a group of Nagano Prefecture high school students in November 2012 shows the curve of the Earth. (Image courtesy of Tomoyuki Fukuzawa)

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