Teacher Jon Chippindall, 31 and entrepreneur Ian Cunningham, 29, met studying aerospace engineering at Manchester University.
They built homemade probe – The Meteor – in their spare time for just £250.
The pair planned to set the device – which soared through the clouds on a giant balloon – off from Manchester’s Heaton Park or Altrinchham grassland in September.
But given the weather conditions and closeness to Manchester Airport, they had to look further afield and wait until the timing was right.
The craft was launched from Mold in North Wales on Wednesday.
Within two hours it had reached 90,000ft above the Earth – three times the height of Mount Everest – where the balloon burst and the camera plunged back down.
The intrepid pair tracked The Meteor’s descent, and collected it from where it landed, near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, some 75 miles away.
They discovered their machine in a farmer’s field – alongside the two Lego men they placed on board.
The camera even captured Jon’s toy cadet ‘walking in space’.
Jon told the Manchester Evening News: “It was really exhilarating to know that this thing had been to the edge of space and come back down, and that the technology had worked as it was supposed to.
“It was real excitement and relief at the same time. When we launched it, we were a bit despondent for some time thinking it wouldn’t come back; some people release them and never hear from them again.”
Ian, an entrepreneur and online technology reviewer who lives in Altrincham, added: “We knew we would get some pictures back from space, but didn’t expect anything as good as those.
“We’re really chuffed.”
Both men are blogging about the launch at primarycomputing.co.uk and pcreview.co.uk.
Jon now plans to write a guide on making and launching a space camera, which could be used in schools.
“I’m really, really keen on extra curricular activities in schools and think this could really inspire kids to study physics and other sciences,” he said.
The pair will now spend the winter months planning their next project.