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World / Europe / Russia / Flight to Stratosphere

Flight to Stratosphere


Among thousands of comments on our website, there was one that caught our attention: "You have photographed the entire Earth. Now it is time to shoot in Space". 

We thought "Why not?" and in the summer of 2012 we sent a probe with photographic equipment to the stratosphere, taking spherical panoramas from the near space. We have a small team and we're always busy running behind.

Recent record-breaking jump from the stratosphere by Felix Baumgartner reminded us about this flight, and we decided to cancel the planned publication of the panoramas from Europe. As a result, instead of a virtual tour of the Vatican, we're offering to your attention the report about the AirPano shooting the near space. 

Oleg Gaponyuk



The stratosphere is situated between about 10 km (6 mi) and 50 km (30 mi) altitude above the Earth's atmosphere. The stratosphere has 2 layers: the lower one (11-25 km) and the upper one (25-50 km). It's worthy to mention that air temperature in the lower layer can reach -60 ° C, while the upper layer is being gradually warmed up to +0,8 ° C and it reaches zero at the altitude of about 45 kilometers.

At altitudes from 15-20 to 55-60 kilometers lies the ozone layer that protects the Earth from the sun's deadly radiation.

The top layer of the stratosphere is often called "near space". 

Sending a camera into the stratosphere and getting it back is a technically challenging task, so we asked project Netwind.ru, headed by Denis Efremov, to help us to do it. They have extensive experience in this field and all the necessary permits from regulatory authorities.


Sending cameras into the near space is done by using balloons filled with helium. These balloons rise 35-37 kilometers above the ground, gradually increasing in size until they are as big as three-story house. At this altitude balloons suppose to burst and send cameras safely to the ground by parachute. To shoot the moment of the balloon's explosion, we set one of the cameras up vertically in video mode.

View of the Earth from 30 km

Balloons had to be launched before dawn in order to shoot the Earth in a beautiful morning light. The night was amazing: all the way to the launch site in the North-East Moscow region our road was lit by headlights, stars, and the moon. Soon the work was in full swing. Our colleagues from Netwind were right on time: they quickly unpacked their things and installed the lighting. We found out that all the necessary equipment could hardly fit into two cars! 

Preparing to fly

A calm weather was promising a good probe launch. But a lot of things had to be checked before the launch. Cameras have to operate in extremely cold conditions: batteries can be damaged, and cover lenses can get misted over or get covered with ice crystals. Cameras have several search GPS-beacons attached to them so they could be found after landing on the ground. However, there is a possibility of failure. That's why assembly process requires a lot of attention.  

Preparing to fly

By morning, all preparations were completed, and the balloon sailed slowly into the sky above the rolling fog. One of the pilots even filmed the launch of the balloon with a radio-controlled model airplane! All we had to do was wait and see what our balloon cameras would show on the screen.

Start of the flight

Some time later we saw beautiful clouds floating past the balloon while it was lit by sun rays. Everything went according to the plan. Upon reaching the altitude of 35-37 kilometers the balloon bursted and cameras started to descend. GPS-beacons sent their coordinates several kilometers above the ground and went silent. The next transmission time was supposed to be from their landing position. But it never happened. This is why we had to cover five miles in diameter in order to find the camera. The search ended up going for 2 days straight: our whole team made several trips to the landing area and searched for camera unit in the dark forest, making our way through the faint trails without any results. It's hard enough to find a small camera in the forest with more or less precise coordinates, but without them it's almost impossible. Furthermore, simultaneous failure of two GPS-beacons looked suspicious, and we thought the camera was not in the forest, but in a lake located near to the search area. Was it a technical failure or a water landing: we couldn't find out the exact cause. A few thousand dollars worth of equipment was lost, and we had to do it all over again.

So a week later we had to repeat the whole process again. The weather was great and the moon and stars gave us new hopes for success. The sky was cloudy but, nonetheless, the luck was on our side. The clouds spared us and photo shoot was successful: on panorama you can see forests, fields, and Pleshcheyevo lake by Pereslavl-Zalesskiy. This time there were three GPS-beacons with cameras and they didn't fail us.

Explosion of the balloon

Cameras landed on the field in the outskirts of one local village attracting attention of cows. But our equipment was not edible, so we found it intact. We have a video of our trip to the cameras' landing site: you can see all the rough roads and small bridges we had to cross to get there. But it was worth it! We finally had a spheric panorama of the Earth from the altitude of 37 kilometers.

24 October 2012

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Add your review about "Flight to Stratosphere"

Is the Earth flat? did you take photo's with a normal lense?

Ryan Hind, United Kingdom

Really, really amazing!
You're Master!

Domenico Perrone, Italy

Thousend thanks for beautiful photos! Congratulations dear boys from Hungary! Kalman.

Koczy Kalman, Hungary

One thing I don't understand is: Why can we see the stars, even so close to the sun?
The images that are published by NASA don't show any stars. Also images shot by the astronauts on the moon don't have visible stars on them. The astronauts themselves told that they only could see the stars on the dark side of the moon. The explanation given is: The light from the sun is so bright that with a normal camera setting the stars are simply too faint to show up. Even if you would use a much longer exposure, the sun flare reflections between different lens sections would dominate the image.
My question is: Did you add the stars later on top of the original photographs? Please tell, because this would be important for the scientific community to know!

Ercan Gigi, Netherlands

Dear Ercan, we've already answered to the similar question in Russian version of our guest book. Look at the message: http://www.airpano.ru/360Degree-VirtualTour.php?3D=Stratosphere&set_language=1  2012-12-13 12:06:59

Briefly, by using manual settings of the camera, it is possible to take a photo where you can see stars and Sun at the same time. We absolutely precisely know how to do it via HDR technology, by shooting with fisheye optics and taking a few pictures with different exposure.

But there is another picture when default camera settings is used.  In this case, as you correctly noticed, the brightness of the sun will force camera to set the exposure to get results where the sky will be dark and the stars will not be visible, as it is on NASA's photos.

When we was creating the panorama of Stratosphere, we had a task to make artistic picture, which most of visitors expect to see. We didn't want to get documentary photography for learning in the scientific community. Therefore we used different technology for showing the sun and the stars.


It can't begin to imagine how you guys must have cringed when loosing the first set. In the end you made it and it's fucking amazing! Such dedication, much inspiration.

Paul Bergot, France

It has become my place, to get away from the hot heat, It is my KBA, kick back area, it take my troubles away with this music, it gives me a little sorrow for things I missed and missing, Thank you , wish you write the music names, Thank you again

Mohammed AlEidi, Saudi Arabia

Woow . I like this. Very very nice

Javad Hajzade, Iran

É tão bom poder voar dentro de casa. Quantas pessoas podem ser felizes pelo vosso trabalho, e ver o mundo como nunca o poderiam ver de outra forma. Também voçês devem estar agradecidos pelo trabalham que fazem, pois vos deve dar um gozo enorme. De qualquer forma, muito obrigado pelo vosso trabalho.

João Castanheira, Portugal

Its' a good feeling to know that quality people have left on this planet :)

Deliman Mihai, Romania


medoo dahlawi, Saudi Arabia

¡¡¡ Impresionante y gran trabajo...poder ver todo el mundo con un solo click y desde casa...seguid así...hacer mas fotos de ESPAÑA, que muchos lugares que merece la pena verlos....!!! DIOS OS BENDIGA.

santos dual hernandez, Spain

Espectacular... sin palabras

josefina mateos, Spain

Excelente trabajo, muy bien logrado, las imágenes son espectaculares, es maravilloso poder contemplar lo bello que es nuestro planeta, gracias totales señores de Airpano.

Leonardo Chaves, Colombia

When I saw these pictures, my heart stopped! To think our world is like this.... just beautiful. I thank god for this world!

Leilani Miller, USA

I have always wondered what another race/ alien would think of of our world, and what would they see....

Randall Lakey, USA

meus cumprimentos por esta maravilha da tecnologia
que vocês, nos proporciona.
obrigado por tudo isso

gerson dimarzio, Brazil

I want to thank to things firts the god who created this beautiful world and second the airpano who gave us the opportinuty to look and admire the god created beautiful world

Aniketh Hotagi, India

Such a great task you won finally.

Mir Mehrullah Talpur, Pakistan

Life isn't fair, but it's still good..

Peyman Ahmadi, Iran


mojtaba nabatzae, Iran

espetacular parabens

elder elderdoria, Brazil

Vangelis music makes this experience unbelievable. I applaud the team that have put this all together.

Andrzej H, Poland


Atefe' Abbasi, Iran

What a wonderful earth we have I thank the great creater God who created this wonderful earth.

shaku joseph arrangasseri srshakuntala, India


Kiljae Lee, Korea

For any one who is house bound, Wonderful!!

Irene Abdi, United Kingdom

amazing....I'm really thankful o whole team...

venkat pampana, India

Felicitaciones es un trabajo espectacular gracias por tan lindas imagenes

horacio donalisio, Argentina

My wife and I looked at some of your work and Zarina said that at our late age this is wonderful tool to visit places that we wished to but did not for one reason or other.
We liked your work and thank you for sharing with us. Please keep on going.

Arif Saeed, Canada

Dear Arif, we are glad that you and your wife like it. You are always welcome!

Varvara, AirPano

Amazing on all that you have done!

Can you tell the title to all the songs in the videos?? the are all wonderfully selected!


Oberdan Aguiar, Brazil

Oberdan, click the link below so you can read how to find titles of songs http://www.airpano.com/FAQ.php

Varvara, AirPano

UNGLAUBLICH, was ihr da macht, Jungs!!
Meine Hochachtung!
Grüsse aus der Schweiz

Andreas Merz, Switzerland

As a teacher... this is truly amazing stuff.... keep at it you guys. Wow!

John Greig, Australia

wonderfull thanks for your work, it´s spectacular.


İncredible work...Congratulations and thanks a lot for sharing...

Burak Ercümen, Turkey

Ihr seid die Grössten,es gibt nichts schöneres als unsere Erde aus dieser Perspektive zu sehen. Danke,alles Gute und weiter so!!!!!!

Ronald Wolf, Germany

Amazing Work!

Eugenio Mafaraci, Germany

As I read the well deserved accolades and praise from around the world, it struck me, the AirPano team has created a common interest that transcends all our differences. All I can add is Thank You!

Gordon Reilly, USA

The views really take you there. Awestruck!

Andy Crownm, USA

All panoramas and 3D Virual Tours

Lise Charland, Canada

opravdu super

Karel CÍS, Czech Republic

This is Truly an Outstanding feat! Alot of hard work went in this project and it is Truly Appreciated. My compliments to the Team who accomplished this. Please keep up the Great Work!!!

Dan Stalnaker, USA

It's amazing work..the most beautiful images that i have ever seen..I can't stop looking at it
thank you

Maggie Ali, Egypt


Gabriel Leicht, Israel

These panorama views are the most beautyful views that I have ever seen. Thanks and keep doing your job!!!

Giovanni Saviano, Italy


Tomi B, Macedonia

"Very very very beautiful - I would ( PLEASE ) love to have a screen saver of this that would slowly rotate!Greatings from Switzerland

Dimitri Kokas ,Deskati, Switzerland

this is a great thank you incredible impressions excellent work amazing thank you

marta gajdusek, USA

Very inspiring - beautiful - I would love to have a
screen saver of this that would slowly rotate !!

Michael Pollitz, USA

Wow... this is something! I had to swallow the tears as I watched this. This was exactly what I imagined it to be. Makes you think about more than just a cool experiment doesnt it...

Kyle Hendricks, South Africa

Awesome pictures. Keep it up!

Peter Ling, Malaysia


Carlos Reyes, Costa Rica

amazing! can't wait to show these panos to my students! i am not a science teacher. in fact, i teach language arts, but my students are from a small town of 5,000 people and may never venture very far. they need to see what is out there beyond their little world!

shelllie mcallister, USA

good work

panayiotis ss, Cyprus

wonderfull, very impressing without word, i like it a lot.


Mega Patten, Greece


Giota Giannouli, Greece

great job


These airborne panorama views are the greatest views that I have ever seen. Keep them coming.

Dennis Lasanen, USA


Marta Dub, Czech Republic


hossein shami, Iran


jose cunha, Portugal

Nice (Some thing Different)"

anand kodagu, India

Muito belo e bonito.

É fantástico o que se vê a cerca de 35 Km.

Bom trabalho .Muita coragem continuem.

José Ferreira Fonseca, Angola


Incredible work... Things made with love!


Alex Gutierrez, Mexico

Amazing work guys!

jorge santos, Brazil

It is really astonished me. It is very cool. Good job.

Daniel Frans, Indonesia

sencillamente fantástico

julian artigas, Spain

I discovered this site one month ago. Since then it is a source of astonishment and respect for your wonderful work. Thank you.

Hans van Leeuwen, Netherlands



Awesome! Both the panoramic pictures and the appropriately matching background music.

Sanjoy Sanyal, Saint Kitts and Nevis


Jitendrakumar Vanjara, India

I mean, could it be possible to include these views in one and the same photo?

Fabrizio G., Russian Federation

Impressive! Ïîòðÿñàþùåå! Could more layers of magnification be added so to be able to see images from the first stages of flight (and, accordingly, the ground from closer up)?

Fabrizio G., Russian Federation

It s realy wonderful views so I like this experiment.

Ammar Mohammed, Iraq

You Have Done Divine Job By Taking Akshardham's 360 Degree pics.
I Think, Now Loard Swaminarayana Will TackCare Of You.

Soham Patadia, India

Outstanding! You managed to capture the attention and awe of my already jaded 11 year old (who is too "smart" for her own good). Dont stop what you're doing.

Marie y Marie, USA

Thank you all for the excellent work done. I use it for my meditation. The music is also good and goes along with meditation.May God keep you all INSPIRED.
Haren Barua

Haren Barua, India

Amazing. Thank you.

Rodica Vidican, Romania

Well done and I just would like to congratulate the AirPano Team for accomplishing a very tough job. However, I personally feel that the Troposphere is much more colourful and varied than the Stratosphere. Carry on your dream flights to every part of the world. Best wishes always.

Manoj Tudu, India

For the stratosphere shooting on 360°, one word to describe it "Awesome".

Vulcan Lau, Malaysia

Es sencillamente bello. Ah!, cuánto hace la tecnología... Gracias por compartir estos bellos videos...

Cristina Amaya, El Salvador

Muito, muito louco parabéns pelo trabalho!

Andre Mazzorana, Brazil

very good........

sara mohazab, Iran

simplemente fantastico

slvador gutierrez, Spain

That's called excellency. The committed efforts and hardwork you have done is highly appreciable. And in such case were someone lost its precious camera. A loud clap from me.



r ss, Iran

aaaaawful !
Thank you very mouch, sharing such incredible impressions with us.
Ralph (www.pano-man.ch)

Ralph Schmidt, Switzerland

Excellent!!!!!!!!!!! very great team work, keep going, Best of luck guys.....

Akash Yadav, India

Excellent work you crazy russians :-))

Bernd Willinger, Austria

Hardwork and passion paid. This is without doubt best work done in 360 panoramas so far....very happy for you guys. Equipment loss is a big loss but you will forget it and memories of your success will always remain in you minds....

Emad ud din Butt, Pakistan

This is Great...........Really great no word to say just see......great......great ......great

Mittal Vaishnav, India

Impresionante, es interesante hasta que limites puedes llegar los panoramas. Gracias por compartir!

john sanchez, Peru

excellent job wish all the best

mohamed eleish, Egypt

Gr8 work

Navinchandra Patel, Uganda

Nice (Some thing Different)

ekkarthik reddy, India

Wow !!!

Morteza Fallah, Iran

You guys are crazy :D Brilliant job as usual!!

Raghavendra Kopalle, India

good...great job...keep it up...

deepak chandra, India

I have no word to say something.
Nice job

Jagdish Chaudhari, India

Fantastic great Job Amigos

Jaime Varon, Mexico

Magnificent work, guys!!

Pradeep Kaushik, India

w.o.w...WOW! spectacular, feels like I'm up there. ...and the photo of the exploding balloon is amazing! Hope to catch up with you next time you come to NYC area.

Mark Slivovsky, USA

Congratulations friends. Great job, and thanks for publishing those breathtaking and priceless panorama!!!

Jairaj Nair, United Arab Emirates

¡¡Excelente como todos los anteriores!


jose calvo, Spain

Congratulations, your hard work paid off!!! CTsr

Clayton Talbert Sr, Canada

Excellent team work

Adolf Aspri, Argentina

Good job!!!!!!!!!!Congratulations!

José Manuel Albuquerque, Portugal

Excellent, congratulations¡¡¡¡¡
Muchas gracias for all.

daniel N Garcia Rusca, Argentina

Very good works ! Congratulations !


Ganz grossartig. Erst jetzt kann ich mir etwas genauer vorstellen, was Felix Baumgartner geleistet hat. Gratulation airpano.ru für alle fantastischen Aufnahmen, die es einem schwer machen ordentliche eigene Fotos zu erstellen.

Helmut Johann Paseka, Austria

Really good job! Bravo...

Bahman Fasihpour, Canada