In December 2012, French dad Nicholas L. his three children asked him to send their favorite toys into space. Without giving much thought to what he was getting himself into, the young father agreed.
In the beginning, the Frenchman had no idea how he was going to pull it off, but after spending four months researching online he had a list of necessary equipment to fly the toys into outer space and retrieve them. He ordered a weather balloon from a US army surplus store, and had the parachute and GPS tracker shipped all the way from Hong Kong. He was ready for the big test, but he needed proof to show his kids he had actually sent their toys into outer space, so he installed two GoPro waterproof cameras on his DIY flying device to record the entire journey.
On a sunny day in July, Nicholas L. took his whole family to the outskirts of their village in Ain, France for the big take off. He inflated the balloon with Ballonium (a special mix of helium and air), attached it to a basket carrying his kids two favorite toys, a Hello Kitty and a Bad Piggy from the popular Angry Birds video game, an iPhone and an external battery, and let it fly. The toys flew all the way up to 20,000 meters above sea level, before coming back down, 50 kilometers from the launch site, and the GoPro cameras recorded the whole trip. Recovering the toys was the hardest part of the project, because the GPS tracker had been damaged by the cold at high altitude and failed to indicate the right coordinates. Finally, after driving 300 kilometers, the family finally found the precious cargo in a cornfield.
Nicholas L. wasn’t the first dad to send his kids’ toys on a kickass space journey.
On Aug 24th 2012 Ron Fugelseth sent his son’s favorite toy train “Stanley” to space in a weather balloon with a HD camera and an old cell phone for GPS. He was recovered only 27 miles away in a corn field.
This great video documents the journey from liftoff to landing: