Using a $77 Nikon Coolpix and a $60 latex balloon filled with helium, a team of teenage students captured these remarkable shots from 20 miles above the Earth's surface.

Radio-synced to Google Earth, the team tracked the package as it soared 885 feet per minute into the sky, taking shots on a periodic timer. The balloon eventually failed around 100,000 before the system parachuted to the ground.

(We paraphrased. If you read the entire account over on the students' page, you'll appreciate details like the team running out of laptop batteries to track the experiment and knocking on neighborhood doors for access power. It's basically got all of the good-hearted excitement of a Disney movie, but it might be topped by these cuter teddy bear astronauts.)

The students were able to recover the package that landed about 6 miles from the launch site., but it was only after they tentatively extracted the SD card sitting safely inside that they discovered the fantastic fruits of their labor. [Project Page via Telegraph and boingboing]