Gizmodo pointed me to these MIT students who launched a camera to near space with a balloon for $150. Almost 18 miles high! They used a Canon point & shoot running CHDK software to take the photos. This is the same software that allows me to use my Canon SD1000s for 3D pictures. Cool!
Check these guys out. I only wish the camera had pointed down more. FF to about the 2:40 mark to see the balloon pop and descend. That's less boring.