Two years ago, we wrote about a British space enthusiast named Robert Harrison who sent a camera high into the skies to take some pretty awesome photos of the Earth. Today, we learned of a couple more space enthusiasts that recently sent their own balloon into near space, except these two fanatics are just 17-years-old, and their project included a Lego man.
The Toronto Star reports that Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad have been friends since middle school. A couple of summers ago, Ho saw a video online that showed some Massachusetts Institute of Technology students sending a balloon into space. The two teenaged boys began working on their project in September, and four months of Saturdays later, they were able to launch their balloon, with Lego man astronaut, into the skies.
The balloon traveled to heights roughly 24 kilometres above sea level, three times the typical cruising altitude of a commercial aircraft, before bursting. An attached parachute ensured a safe landing, and a GPS helped the boys find it once it did bump back down to earth. It was 122 kilometres from its launch point.
Sadly, this Lego man is not quite a spaceman, yet. According to UniverseToday, NASA considers people to be astronauts once they’ve traveled higher than 80 km (50 miles), so this little guy has quite a ways to go before he gets any calls from NASA. Still, he's more of an astronaut than most of us.
The whole project cost $400 to carry off. This includes an $85 weather balloon online, three used point-and-shoots from Craigslist and Kijiji, a wide-angle video camera, a cellphone with a GPS app, a homemade parachute (which they sewed themselves using Muhammad's mum's sewing machine), and $160 worth of helium from a party supply store. The whole set-up was sealed inside a Styrofoam container and launched from a soccer pitch in Newmarket, Ontario.
Check the boys' video below. We've also included a news report from CBC, which features Muhammad and Ho talking a little more about the project.