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Geeks chip in to fund nerd's space station gizmo launch

Astronomy graduate raises $18k for ISS 'detector' lamp

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A self-described rocket nerd will be able to turn his International Space Station 'detector' gizmo into a product after fellow geeks chipped in thousands of dollars of investment.

Nathan Bergey wired up a microcontroller to a set of lights so that they illuminate when the orbiting space lab passes overhead. Rather than detecting the presence of the craft, the little black box of electronics calculates the position of the station given the time of day, and then compares that to where the user is. You'll need to plug the gadget into a computer every so often so it can be prepped on the station's latest movements.

Now Bergey will be able to turn his ISS-Notify invention into a product – thanks to Kickstarter, a funding platform that allows people to pitch their idea for a new product or service and get the cash to put it into action through hundreds of backers.

"This started as a simple weekend project because I thought it would be cool," Bergey said on the dosh-collecting website. "The response has been overwhelming. Everyone says 'I want one!' I've heard from space geeks, teachers, NASA employees and just about everyone in between."

Bergey's goal was to raise $6,000 so that he could build a better version of his ISS-Notify and the website to sell it, as well as develop an API for anyone to hack around with it. According to the fundraising site, the project actually succeeded in getting pledges for $18,637 for the space lamp.

The physics and astronomy graduate said the idea was "a simple attempt at making our space programme more real".

"Human space flight is an awesome part of living in the future. But why does it still seem so abstract? There are people in space right now!" he enthused.

"Many times a day the International Space Station passes overhead unnoticed. Often it happens during the day when it's too bright to see the tiny dot in the sky. So this light will pulse and shine whenever the station is overhead – making the invisible visible," he added. ®

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