Two inventive Canadian teenagers sent a Lego astronaut into near space, capturing amazing footage around 24 kilometers above sea level.
Schoolfriends Matthew Ho and Asad Muhammad, both 17, worked on the project for around four months before successfully launching their homemade spacecraft two weeks ago, the pair told the Toronto Star.
First they assembled a lightweight Styrofoam box, in which they placed three cameras programmed to take continuous shots and one wide-angle video camera. They bought a professional weather balloon online and $160 CAN worth of helium from a party shop in order to propel the device upwards.
They made a nylon parachute to help it return to Earth intact, and added a smartphone with a downloaded GPS app to allow them to track it.
The final touch was a Lego man, complete with handmade Canadian flag, which was super-glued to a gangplank facing the cameras.
Then they waited, checking weather forecasts until conditions were right for the spacecraft to land near enough its launch point for them to retrieve it. Finally, a couple of weekends ago, they sent their Lego man up.
See the results for yourself:
Their craft climbed to around 80,000 feet in an hour and five minutes, Ho and Muhammad calculate, before the weather balloon exploded and the capsule began its 32-minute return to Earth.
The Lego man didn't technically make it to space, but he did get as far as the outer edge of Earth's atmosphere. The curvature of Earth and the beginning of space is clearly visible behind him in the video.
"It's a pretty impressive accomplishment," said University of Toronto astrophysicist Michael Reid. "There are people that are doing it, but I haven't seen many examples of 17-year-old kids doing it," he told the Vancouver Sun.
Since posting the video online yesterday, Muhammad and Ho have been bombarded with offers, the Star said, including free cameras, reimbursement of their costs (around $400 CAN total), a tour of an astrophysics lab and an invitation to speak at an undergraduate engineering competition.