Fly Me to the Moon

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Fly Me to the Moon

Viewing the vastness of space from a balloon-mounted camera. His title is Balloon Space Photographer, and just as it sounds, Keisuke Iwaya is probably the only person in the world whose means of expression is attaching a camera to a balloon to photograph and filming space.

“I love science, and I was the type of kid who liked to take machines apart to see what they were made of. I idolized Doc Brown from the ‘Back to the Future’ movies. I never doubted that I could become an inventor like Doc in the future.”

While studying space engineering at Hokkaido University, he discovered an article on an international news site about an American college student who filmed space by attaching a camera to a balloon.

“Space development is a national project that will cost hundreds of billions. To a college student that sounds impossible. But when I saw the picture in that article, space was only vaguely photographed, so I thought I’d like to give it a try!”

While procuring the necessary materials at 100 yen shops and hardware stores, Iwaya designed and constructed his own balloon mounted camera. He repeatedly conducted hundreds of experiments and failed so badly at times that we thought he would never recover. But after a year and a half of work, Iwaya finally succeeded in filming space from an altitude of 30 km.

“The balloon that I worked so hard to build, burst through the clouds, soared through the sky, saw space, and came home. When I saw the series of images that the camera took, I had a profoundly deep feeling of the existence of space way above us and how we, space, and the Earth are inseparable and completely interconnected. After that I started to make improvements that I’m still working on now.”

At first he was using a small model camera, but he finally succeeded in filming space with the first single lens reflex camera made in Japan. He was also the first to successfully film space with a cinema camera. He hopes to take moving pictures and videos that everyone will appreciate for their beauty, and currently his motivation is to make art that recreates the experience of space.

When you get on the elevator, all surfaces of the elevator are being filmed. As the elevator rises, it breaks through the clouds, continues to move upwards through the sky, and finally at the top floor a doorway to space opens up. This is an example of a method that I’d like to try to connect space with everyday spaces. A giant lamp that you can wear on your head might be an interesting project to place on a street corner somewhere. Someone watching from the curb might feel it’s a strange thing to see and think, ‘Why is that guy’s head stuck up inside that lamp?’ But inside the lamp would be a 360 degree wrap around space experience. I sometimes fantasize about being able to make some sort of device like that.”

He already has a project on display in a planetarium. It’s exciting to think about what sort of invention Iwaya will come up with next.

Words: Takashiro Tomari

Keisuke Iwaya, Balloon Space Photographer
Born in Fukushima in 1986. His first attempt at filming space from a balloon that he created was in 2011. In 2012, he succeeded in filming space from an altitude of 30km and was thrown into the limelight. Currently he continues to receive requests from within the industry to film and photograph space to help with research. He has made appearances on several TV shows, including “Jonestu Tairiku”, and has authored a book, “Uchu wo Toritai, Fusen de,” available through KINOBOOKS.
© Chikashi Kasai
© Keisuke Iwaya The Earth and space filmed with his balloon mounted camera. He has created a variety of inventions, some of which are still being developed, such as batteries that operate in the cold air of high altitudes.
© Sawako fujii The camera is protected by styrene foam and then suspended from a balloon that inflates to an enormous size. After rising up to around 30 km, the camera then returns by parachute.

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