Sunday, February 5, 2012

Wow...Lego Man Made It Into Near Space!

Lego Man took a jaunt around Toronto end January. The 4-cm plastic toy, which traveled to near space courtesy of Toronto teens Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, is going on a tour to capitalize on his newfound celebrity. 

The Canadian high school students have successfully launched this Lego man almost 80,000 feet above sea level - high enough to capture video of the plastic toy hovering above the curvature of the Earth.

Now the results of their experiment (video in time lapse) have gone viral, racking up more than 600,000 views on YouTube in just two days and inspiring the young engineers to make their small astronaut his own Facebook page - Lego Man in Space.

The Toronto Star reports that the two teens, Matthew Ho and Asad Muhammed, were inspired to do the project about a year and a half ago when Ho saw a YouTube video of MIT students who sent a balloon to near space. Ho wanted to see if he could do it too.

The friends spent four and a half months working on the project, mostly on Saturdays. In a video interview with the Star, they said the hardest part was making the parachute, which they decided to hand-sew, even though neither of them had any sewing experience.

They also constructed a lightweight Styrofoam box to carry three point-and-shoot cameras, a wide-angle video camera and a cellphone with a downloadable GPS app. They purchased a professional weather balloon for $85 online. The helium that would lift it up came from a party supply store. For launch, they put two mitten warmers in the Styrofoam box to keep the cameras working at that altitude. The whole project cost them about $400.

After the balloon was constructed, the two waited until weather conditions would ensure that the Lego man would land in Canada and not somewhere in the U.S. because they didn't want to take their chances with U.S. Homeland Security, the Star reports.

Ho and Muhammed estimate that it took their balloon craft one hour and five minutes to climb 80,000 feet before it finally popped. The descent took a little more than 30 minutes. Besides online notoriety, the two also received a congratulatory note from Lego.