These photos were captured by three smartphones as they orbited the Earth onboard the Antares rocket last month. The gadgets were in space as part of NASA’s “PhoneSats” project, a mission that sought to test whether a piece of consumer electronics could serve as the “main flight avionics” –that is to say, the brain–of a satellite. No word on what brand or model they used.
The phones were taking pics as a test to see whether they could send reliable data from space. NASA explains:
During their time in orbit, the three miniature satellites used their smartphone cameras to take pictures of Earth and transmitted these “image-data packets” to multiple ground stations. Every packet held a small piece of the big picture. As the data became available, the PhoneSat Team and multiple amateur radio operators around the world collaborated to piece together photographs from the tiny data packets.
Sadly, the smartphones didn’t live to tell the tale. NASA reports they burned up in Earth’s atmosphere (as was expected) April 27.