Here’s an exciting challenge from Workshop 88, called Hackerspaces in Space. It’s an inter-hackerspace challenge to send a weather balloon into space, capture some amazing data, and retrieve it. This could be a great team project for an established space, or even a good way to motivate a group of people to get together and form a space!

I can’t help but notice that it also seems a timely and appropriate response to Martin Gittins, who recently noted that “The horizon of our vision for technology is no longer interplanetary travel but multi-touch user interface designs.” While there are certainly great reasons to improve the usability and reach of technology, we shouldn’t forget that there is a huge universe out there to explore, and that you don’t need to be NASA to get a glimpse of it.

Of course, weather balloon won’t technically make it into outer space (more like the stratosphere), but are certainly an accessible way to get pretty far up with backyard technology. From their press release:

NAPERVILLE, Illinois – February 16, 2009 – Workshop 88, Chicago’s only suburban hackerspace, has announced a new competition. Hackerspaces from around the world will participate to send weather balloons, with payloads, into near space hoping to capture pictures of the Earth’s horizon. Inspired by many recent amateur weather balloon endeavors across the country, Hackerspaces in Space aims to turn this phenomenon into a full- fledged competition.

Launches will begin in June and run till the end of August. At the end of competition teams will post their results and pictures on the web where they will be judged on a variety of criteria like: retrieval time, weight of payload, and total cost of the project.

Motivated by the excitement of the challenge, or in some cases a personal vendetta, nine hacker spaces have already signed up for the challenge. So don’t delay, check out the competition website for the official rules and to register. See you… in space!

Image courtesy HeatSync labs