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Lego Man in space Holding the Canadian flag, the Lego astronaut was captured on film soaring up to 16 miles above the Earth. (Courtesy Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad / www.legomaninspace.com)

Lego Man Blasts Into Space

Two teens launch a Lego astronaut miles into the stratosphere

By Tyrus Cukavac | February 6 , 2012

A home science experiment recently took the world by storm. Two teens from Toronto, in Canada, sent a Lego man soaring above the Earth and captured their tiny astronaut’s trip on film.

Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, both 17, used a weather balloon to launch their plastic Lego figurine from a soccer field in Toronto. The balloon rose up to 16 miles (85,000 feet) above the Earth. This is inside a part of Earth’s atmosphere known as the stratosphere.

The two teens were inspired by a similar project performed by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The MIT students had launched a weather balloon with a camera into near space and taken numerous striking images of the Earth. Mathew and Asad then spent four months figuring out how to launch their own spacecraft into the stratosphere.

Traveling to space is expensive for NASA, but Mathew and Asad worked hard to keep their costs down. They bought much of their equipment used and even sewed the Lego man’s parachute by hand. In total, the project cost only $400.

“We had a lot of anxiety on launch day because there were high winds when we were going up,” Mathew told reporters. They had to pump extra helium into the balloon so that it would rise quickly and avoid being blown too far off course by the strong winds.

The toy astronaut’s journey lasted 97 minutes before the balloon popped and he fell back to Earth. Mathew and Asad then spent two weekends looking for their spacecraft. It had landed 76 miles away from the initial launch site.

Mathew and Asad’s project received a lot of attention in the news. As of this writing, their video of the Lego’s liftoff has been watched more than 2.5 million times on YouTube alone.

The student scientists are currently finishing up their final year of high school and applying to colleges. They are also looking into more do-it-yourself space projects.

“I guess the sky is not really the limit anymore,” Mathew told reporters. “We never knew we'd get this far. It’s been a lesson for us that hard work pays off.”

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