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US dad sends iPhone 4 into space

In a move that's guaranteed to have geeks the globe over smacking their foreheads and asking, "Why didn't I think of that?!", a New York man has become a legend in kitchen-table space exploration - by sending his iPhone 4 into space and capturing the incredible journey on video.

A condensed version of the eye-popping HD footage can be found here, at the home of the so-called Brooklyn Space Program.

Founder member Luke Geissbühler and his son achieved the feat by attaching an iPhone 4 to a weather balloon and sending it up through the stratosphere - braving winds of up to 100mph on its trip.

Launched in August from Newburgh, upstate New York, the weather balloon expanded as it rose due to the lack of atmospheric pressure.

When the phone reached a staggering 19 miles above the earth's surface, capturing pictures of the planet's curved atmosphere, the balloons eventually burst, sending the smartphone hurtling back down to earth at speeds of up to 150mph, protected only by a home-made protective housing attached to a parachute - and capturing the perilous descent as it fell.

Back on the ground, the task was on to recover the phone from the GPS coordinates it broadcast. Due to a combination of wind patterns, the phone's almost vertical trajectory saw it come down just 30 miles north of the launch site - though the camera didn't manage to capture the final moments before it hit the ground, its batteries finally succumbing to the cold after 100 minutes of filming, a mere two minutes from landing.

Geissbühler and his son found the returned spacecraft hanging in a tree, located using the 'find my phone' feature of Apple's MobileMe.

Geissbühler is currently taking pre-orders for a how-to book to teach harried parents how to make their offspring's ultimate dreams come true. Weather balloon manufacturers the world over will be wishing him a big thank you for that - though air traffic controllers, we imagine, may not be quite so pleased.

You can buy a copy of the full epic flight video on DVD or download for $25 from the Brooklyn Space Project's web site.