There are few things more breathtaking than a photograph of planet Earth from vantage point of a satellite. If you ever start to feel that you're capable of taking over the world, just a peek of the tininess of our home planet will bring you (ahem) back down to earth. This beautiful blue marble we call home is unlike anything else (that we know of) in the universe, and now, there's a way for you to photograph the Earth up close and personal without leaving your house.
The SkyCube is a 10x10x10 cm "1U" CubeSat designed to orbit more than 300 miles above the Earth's surface. While it certainly won't be the first satellite to give us a bird's eye view of the planet, it's certainly one of the first to be cooperatively owned and operated by more than 2,400 people. SkyCube is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign aimed at revolutionizing the way people observe the night sky.
The SkyCube is designed to take low-resolution pictures of the Earth and broadcast simple messages uploaded by sponsors--like Tweets, for instance. Designer Tim Benedictis and his team are already responsible for the SkySafari astronomy apps for iOS, Android, and Mac OS X, and the SkyFi wireless telescope controller. With the support of thousands of crowdfunders, they hope "to do for space exploration what we've done for amateur astronomy."
The great thing about SkyCube is that after 90 days, it will use an 8-gram CO2 cartridge to inflate a 10-foot (3-meter) diameter balloon coated with highly reflective titanium dioxide powder. "SkyCube's balloon will make the satellite as bright as the Hubble Space Telescope or a first-magnitude star. You'll be able to see it with your own eyes, sailing across the sky," reads the project's Kickstarter page. Then, within three weeks of launch, the atmospheric drag will cause the SkyCube to return to the Earth's surface, able to be picked up an recycled instead of drifting as dangerous space junk.
Those who backed the Kickstarter campaign will have the privilege of requesting images, sending a limited number of messages via the satellite, and even taking over operations for a certain period of time.