Four hours after the launch, Lee said, the team thought all was lost.
"We were like placing bets on whether we thought it would work or not," the 23-year-old mechanical engineering grad student said. "Early on, we were optimistic that it would work. About 4 hours after, [when] we hadn't heard any news about the device, we had sort of given up hope. We'd thought we'd lost it."
Dejected, the group drove back to Boston to Lee's apartment.
They checked his computer and found an unlikely signal: The camera had landed in a construction zone outside Worcester, Massachusetts, about 25 miles from the launch site.
"We were so excited, we jumped right back into the car, and we drove out to Worcester, and we found it. That was a great moment," Lee said.
They were amazed with the results. The camera was unharmed. The hand warmers were still hot. And the photos were amazing.
I imagine the three students driving out to the construction site. Who was the first to spot the styrofoam container? Were they quivering with anticipation when they pressed the Canon image-preview button?
When they saw the phenomenal photo with the black of space, did they experience an irrationally destructive temptation to press the delete button? Similar to standing by a cliff and repressing an unexplained impulse to jump off, which most of us have felt at one time or another.