Whether you’ve been dreaming about space all your life or just dreaming of a car on your way to Mars, there’s no denying that space exploration continues to be a passion for many.
While joining the NASA engineering team may not be an option for most, all of these backyard space projects have taken place in the homes, garages, and gardens of amateur rocket engineers and enthusiasts. 3… 2… 1… rock out!
1. Flight control department
This incredible flight controller was built by Jeff Highsmith of Make. With various switches, knobs, bulbs and dials, this incredible project looks and sounds just like the real thing.
Using an iPad to play space video and a Raspberry Pi in combination with an Arduino, all the controls really work. With virtually accurate labels for oxygen levels, altitude, speed, and more, there’s not much you can do.
In addition to the cool buttons, Jeff has programmed simulations of real historical space glitches, complete with accurate solutions! Unfortunately this remote doesn’t control a real spaceship, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t reprogram a bit.
2. Lunar laser
When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in 1969, the astronauts left behind more than footprints. The surface of the moon contains a 2-foot-wide panel covered with 100 mirrors. Using a laser and some sensitive electronic devices, you can fire a laser on the moon, bounce it off a mirror, and detect the reflected beam.
3. High altitude balloon
The premise is simple. Attach the camera, parachute and GPS to the weather balloon. Send it into space and then pick up the pieces!
This particular guide is from the Dechert 360 YouTube channel, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of high altitude balloon projects.
While you may need a permit to launch, launching high altitude photography is one of the easiest projects you can work on and a few specialized parts are inexpensive and readily available.
4. International Space Station Orbit Tracker
This space project idea comes directly from YouTube creator Practical Engineering. This mechanical marvel uses an Arduino-compatible development board at its core and simply points to the location of the International Space Station.
While this project uses a stepper motor and a few specialized attachment points, the ISS tracker code on GitHub should be enough to get you started regardless of your specific hardware configuration.