Canadians put man in space

Teens send toy above the clouds


It's very cool that two 17-year-old Canadians sent a flag-toting Lego figurine into the sky on a weather balloon, as part of a weekend project that cost less than $500. It's cooler still that they got back some fantastic video of the toy silhouetted against the backdrop of a curving Earth beneath a black sky. But let's not call it putting a "Lego man in space." Even though the balloon ascended to around 80,000 feet, that's only a quarter of the way to the boundary of outer space.

That distinction doesn't take anything away from the feat that Toronto teens Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad pulled off this month: The high-school students worked during four months' worth of free Saturdays to put together their balloon-borne experimental package, including four cameras, a cell phone with a GPS app, a home-sewn parachute and a Lego "minifig" holding a Canadian flag.

When the wind conditions were right, as determined by a website that calculates balloon trajectories, the teens headed out to a soccer field in Newmarket and sent their rig up on an $85 weather balloon. The data suggest that the balloon rose to somewhere around 80,000 feet over the course of 65 minutes, then blew apart. The Lego man and the cameras came back down to Earth, buoyed by the parachute and protected within a plastic-foam box during the half-hour descent. Eventually, the cell phone guided the kids to a field about 75 miles away from the launch point.

Comment: NASA is envious

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