This past weekend, two Seattle sisters, Kimberly (8) and Rebecca (10), launched an image of their beloved cat, Loki, and a Lego R2-D2 minifig into the sky. That’s right, two young children can now send a homemade spacecraft 78,000 feet to near-space and successfully recover it. Of course they had plenty of help from their parents, and I’m sure from GoPro, who sponsored them, but you can see from the accompanying video that the girls really did do a lot and I’m sure they learned a tremendous amount from the whole experience.
It really is incredible what citizen scientists and backyard engineers can accomplish at this point. Here’s an excerpt from the GeekWire piece about the girls and their launch:
The craft traveled the fastest right after the balloon popped at 78,000 feet, reaching 110 km/h, or nearly 70 MPH. It averaged about 35km/h (20 MPH) over its four hour and 20 minute journey.
Rebecca, 10, said the most exciting part of the launch was actually the end, when they found the spacecraft with minimal damage.
“The tall grass hid the spacecraft so well, that we even walked right past it, but thanks to GPS we were able to find it,” Kimberly said in an email to GeekWire.
Rebecca ended up spotting the orange parachute in a cow field and Kimberly, 8, picked it up after climbing over three fences to get there. While the ship was mostly intact, the namesake Loki and Lego snapped off on impact, but were quickly found nearby.
The craft was recovered some 50 miles from the launch site. The girls forgot to factor in the weight of the ropes holding the platform to the balloon and so the calculations for the landing were off.
I love this picture of their post-flight mission report. That’s right, a post-flight mission report for an actual spacecraft, written by two citizen scientists who are in elementary school! Sometimes, I get the feeling that we’re finally living in the future. Space, we’re coming for you, and we’re pre-teens wearing Hello Kitty spacesuits!
To read a bit more on this project, check out the story on GeekWire.