Earlier this week, Two cuddly teddy bears MAT and KMS (named using the first initials of the kids that build their spacesuits), each strapped with a friend, made history by becoming the first stuffed animals to fly to Space.
The bears, dressed in spacesuits designed by middle school kids, were strapped to a helium weather balloon, and 'launched' to outer space from Churchill College in Cambridge , UK. Attached to them, was a web camera, which sent the amazing pictures back to Earth. Temperature sensors affixed to the spacesuits, transmitted the exact temperatures to the mission control down below.
After a successful launch, the space pioneers drifted 100,000 ft. above the ground, where they conducted their space walk, which was caught on camera, right before the helium balloon burst. The bears parachuted back down safely, landing north of Ipswich , about 50 miles away from their launch pad. The entire adventure lasted 2 hours and nine minutes.
While seeing the bears go to space was thrilling, the bigger purpose behind the space mission, arranged in collaboration with Cambridge University's spacecraft club, was to get middle-school students excited about science and see how some of the theory they learn can be applied to real-life situations.
The main aim of the experiment, spearheaded by 21-year old Cambridge University student, Henry Hallam, was to monitor weather conditions in space and determine which materials provided the best insulation in the temperatures that dip as low as -53 degrees Celsius.
The kids who designed the spacesuits had to consider not only the insulation, but also take into account convection, conduction and radiation, of the materials used. And this wasn't enough-even the best insulated suit would be worthless if it was too heavy. They therefore had to take into account material buoyancy and the pressure and composition of the atmosphere, before designing the suit. The fact that the bears had a radio connection to the computer below, brought in real-life uses of computer control and radio communications.
Funnily enough, none of the kids thought of this as learning science - to them it was just a fun project and seeing it succeed, made it all the more awesome. The Spacecraft club's next project is to try devise a cheaper sub-orbital space flight. We wonder who will be the lucky passengers on that flight.
Sources: Guardian.co.uk, Telegraph.co.uk