Exploring the final frontier has traditionally been the work of scientists, national governments, and the occasional eccentric billionaire. After all, it takes a lot to slip the surly bonds of Earth – a lot of money, a lot of effort, a lot of fuel. It’s not the sort of thing you can just jump into as an amateur. Unless you’re a pair of Canadian teens with access to a balloon, a couple of cameras, and one particularly adventurous Lego man, that is. Because those items and some gumption are all it took for 17 year olds Matthew Ho and Asad Muhammad to send a homemade craft on a journey into space, some 80,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.
As reported by the Toronto Star, the project was undertaken by Ho and Muhammad purely for fun, to see if they could do it. “We didn’t really believe we could do it until we did,” said Ho. If that’s not the pure spirit of science, I don’t know what is. The pair spent $400 and four months to cobble together the craft, using a homemade parachute, a weather balloon their ordered online, several cameras, a GPS-enabled phone, and, of course, one patriotic Canadian Lego man. The trip lasted 97 minutes, reached a height three times the cruising altitude of a jet – high enough to see the curvature of the Earth — and ended with a 32-minute free fall after the balloon finally burst. You can see a video of the Lego astronaut’s journey below.
Of course, you can’t have an inspiring story of do-it-yourself chutzpah like this without somebody coming along to rain on the parade. In this case the folks wielding the hoses are aviation experts such as Captain Barry Wiszniowski, chairman of the Air Canada Pilots Association’s safety division. He’s worried that copycat amateur scientists might start trying to send more things into space, causing navigation hazards for planes. And let’s face it, it would just be embarrassing to have your plane brought down by a wayward Lego man.