Canadian teenagers send Lego man into space
By Shiv Malik, Thursday 26 January 2012 11.17 EST
Two Canadian teenagers have sent a Lego man into the outer reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere using a home-stitched parachute and equipment found on Craigslist.
Two weeks ago, Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, both 17, attached the plastic figurine replete with maple leaf flag to a helium balloon, which they sent 80,000 feet into the air.
The pair managed to capture the entire journey into the blackness of space, including the descent, which lasted 97 minutes, using four cameras, at an entire cost of just £254.
Spending four months of Saturdays on the project, the teenagers launched the professionally made weather balloon from a football pitch. It then soared to more than double the height of a commercial jet’s cruising altitude – some 24km into the upper atmosphere from where the Earth’s curvature can be seen.
Having attached a GPS receiver to the styrofoam box carrying the cameras and Lego-naut, the two managed to recover the bundle attached to a hand-stitched parachute from a field 122km from the launch site.
According to the Toronto star, which broke the story, the two met in middle school after Muhammad’s family had just emigrated from Pakistan. Muhammad, who spoke no English, was soon befriended by Ho and they began working on the project at Ho’s house last September.
“People would walk into the house and see us building this fantastical thing with a parachute from scratch, and they would be like, ‘What are you doing?'” says Ho. “We’d be like, ‘We’re sending cameras to space.’ They’d be like, ‘Oh, okayyyyy …'” he said.
Astrophysics professor Dr Michael Reid, from the University of Toronto, praised the boys, saying: “It shows a tremendous degree of resourcefulness. For two 17-year-olds to accomplish this on their own is pretty impressive.”
Lego sent a note of congratulations. “We are always amazed by the creative ways in which Lego fans use our products, and humbled by how many unsuspecting places we appear, like attached to a helium balloon in … space,” said the company’s brand relations director, Michael McNally.