posted on Sep, 22 2005 @ 10:26 PM
A few points:
First, there is no "dark side" of the moon. Correct terminology is "far side" of the moon. As the moon rotates, it always shows the same side to
earth, but as it orbits earth, there are times when the far side of the moon basks in the rays of the sun (during the "new moon" phase).
Now having quite a fun time when I was younger launching model rockets, I was often able to achieve 1000-1500 feet with a small rocket using only a
A-size solid engine (about $10 for a 3-pack at the local hobby store). These rockets would achieve near escape velocity with these engines, they just
weren't powerful enough to launch it from the atmosphere. Given this, it wouldn't be too out of the question to design a rocket, of very small
size, that could carry camera equipment out of orbit. Propellant could be made from readilly available household items, or, to lessen the risk of
Federal notice, a multi-stage, large cell powered "model" rocket that could launch a cardboard tube into space. Weight would be a very minor issue,
as cameras are currently made that weigh as little as a few ounces, and someone that can build a circuit board could likely make a rudimentary
navigation system (with roughly the processing power of a Commodore 64 - the same amount of power that took Apollo to the moon), that would weigh very
little as well. The cost of navigation systems, however, could be a little detrimental. If you want to use fins that can adjust for direction
control, and micro-engines that could fire while in space to correct the course of the rocket, you're adding a little weight, and much cost to the
system. Servos to control the main and secondary (and posibly tertiary) phases of the rocket would cost money, and would be lost completely. If
you're not looking for any sort of magnificent zoom on the camera, it's pretty easy to load a small camera into the system (I did it once with a
model rocket, that used a rom stick to record a brief video after the ejection of the recovery parachute - all for only about $75 - in 1992). If you
want digital zoom and such on your camera, you're looking at higher costs and weight. It is possible. It just may not be cheap.
As far as federal regulations on launching a private rocket, as far as I know, as long as you check with the FAA to make sure there isn't an aircraft
in the flight trajectory, it's pretty legal, under a certian engine power level (I'm not sure exactly what the power level is, but it was set to
prohibit unauthorized launches of ICBMs - far heavier than we're looking at here). As long as you're not risking collision with an aircraft, and
the FAA is aware of your launch, you should be fine. (If I'm missing something here, someone please let me know)
I think it could be done with a rocket that weighs less than ten pounds overall, probably a double (maybe triple stage) rocket, and possibly even
using multi-engine configurations of readilly available model rocket engines (probably E cell or greater). The only trick would be proper
synchronization of engine ignition (which would only happen with an integrated, high temperature, electrical arc ignition system (a couple AA
batteries could produce enough spark), or a synchronized liquid fuel ignition system (as in a slight injection and ignition of gasoline or other
My final recomendation on this - experiment. Learn model rockets. See if you can even send one into space (radio transmitting altimeters are pretty
light, and not too expensive now-a-days). If you know you can get a light rocket out of orbit (perhaps even with a payload or two, to simulate the
weight of the real rocket), then you start development on the actual thing.
It can be done. It can be done legally. Just learn about it, and do it. And, if you want to avoid jail time, make damn sure you check with the FAA
before any high-altitude launches.