Engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center and amateur radio operators around the world collaborated to reconstruct an image of Earth sent to them from three smartphones in orbit. The joint effort was part of NASA's nanosatellite mission, called PhoneSat.
Although the ultimate goal of the PhoneSat mission was to determine whether a consumer-grade smartphone can be used as the main flight avionics for a satellite in space, 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 ham radio operators, who call themselves "hams," pieced together a high-resolution photograph from the tiny data packets.
As part of their preparation for space, the smartphones were outfitted with a low-powered transmitter operating in the amateur radio band. They sent the image information to awaiting hams who worked with the Ames engineers to stitch together multiple, tiny images to restore the complete Earth view.
Also: Learn about spaceflight radiometer calibration.