Later, Lego man: Hello Kitty doll sent soaring to edge of space
Published Wednesday, February 6, 2013 8:40AM PST
After a California girl sent her Hello Kitty doll on a dizzying ride more than 28 kilometres above the Earth into sub-orbital space as part of a school science project, the video documenting the journey has gone viral.
Lauren Rojas, a Grade 7 student at Cornerstone Christian School in Antioch, Calif., first got the idea for the project when she and her dad watched footage of a weather balloon’s release on television.
"We knew I had a science experiment this year and we both thought it would be the best project ever," she told CTV's Canada AM.
The pair began researching the project -- intended to explore the effects of altitude on air pressure and temperature -- and eventually ordered a high-altitude balloon and parachute online.
The father-daughter duo then built a capsule to carry several GoPro cameras, instruments to record altitude and temperature, and a GPS device to track the capsule's location and speed of travel.
For fun, they added a silver rocket ship with the Hello Kitty doll, and a pink breast cancer ribbon to honour women in their family who have survived the disease.
The construction process and the balloon’s journey are documented in a video posted to YouTube, which has now been viewed over 240,000 times.
Video taken by the capsule's many cameras first shows shaky images of the ground, the city as it becomes smaller and smaller, and then the curvature of the Earth as the balloon approaches the five-kilometre mark.
The planet below eventually becomes a distant, blue sphere as the balloon carries its cargo to its top altitude of 28,357 metres.
The assent ends when the balloon, expanded to 53 times its original size in the low-pressure environment, bursts in dramatic fashion and the parachute opens to begin the controlled descent back to Earth.
"It was actually really, really fun because we were just at Starbucks and we were tracking its every move and as soon as we saw it was staying in the same place we hopped in the car and drove really, really fast to go get it," Rojas said.
The Hello Kitty doll's journey surpassed that of a Lego figurine sent on a similar mission last year by two Canadian high school students. Asad Muhammad and Matthew Ho, of Toronto, achieved a height of 24 kilometres above the Earth, also documenting the trip and posting the video on YouTube.
They quickly garnered widespread media attention for their efforts and were even courted by several universities -- though in the end neither opted for careers in the sciences. After graduating high school, Ho decided to study commerce at the University of British Columbia and Muhammad is studying aircraft maintenance at Centennial College in Toronto.
Technically, both teams fell short of actually launching their balloons into space.
According to an article in Scientific American, that would require the balloons to travel to the 100-kilometre-high Karman line -- defined by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale as the official boundary of space.