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Britain shocks the world and lunches first teddy bears into space

These incredible pictures show four teddies boldly going where no bear has gone before - to the edge of space with the aid of a giant helium balloon.

The cuddly astronauts were decked out in custom-made space suits and blasted 19 miles above Earth on a two-hour expedition.

The soft toys MAT and KMS were named after the first initials of the pupils who helped make their space suits.

Along with their two intrepid colleagues, they were strapped to a beam attached to a foam-padded box containing instrumentation and cameras on Monday.

After rising to an altitude of around 100,000ft, a webcam caught their 'space-walk' for posterity before the helium balloon burst.

They then fell to Earth before a parachute opened automatically to provide a soft landing.

During the 2 hour 9 minute flight the radio on board broadcast the location of the craft to a chase team on the ground.

The team predicted the landing site using wind speed data and arrived in time to watch the teddy bears parachute safely back to Earth in a field four miles north east of Ipswich.

They landed just 50 miles from their launch pad by Churchill College in Cambridge.

During ten previous experiments, half have ended up ditching in the North Sea. One disappeared over Scandinavia before washing up on the coast of Denmark.

The teddy bears had to endure temperatures of -53C but had special spacesuits made by school children from the nearby Parkside and Coleridge community colleges. This stopped them from freezing solid on their epic trip.

Temperature sensors were stuck to the teddies' chests and connected to a laptop which allowed 'mission control' to measure the extremes of temperature they experienced.

But the mission, led by aerodynamics student Henry Hallam, 21, had a more serious purpose than giving the teddies the ride of their lives.

The aim of the experiment was to monitor weather conditions in the stratosphere and determine which materials provide the best insulation against the freezing temperatures experienced on the flight.

Mr Hallam said: 'We asked the children to build the space suits for the teddy bears and we monitored the temperatures inside and outside the suits.

'The project was all about applying science into the real world. I think it's taught them a lot about running a real experiment.'

Thia Unsworth, 12, from Parkside College, helped to design the spacesuit for M.A.T.

She said: 'It was unbelievable to see the balloon take off and it's incredible to see the pictures of the teddy bears in space.

'I've always loved science before, but I now understand how it helps in the real world.'

Classmate Sam White, 13, helped programme the camera to take pictures in space and let go of the balloon on Monday.

He said: 'It was amazing to see it go up so quickly.'

The student-run Spaceflight society is working towards reducing the cost of sub-orbital spaceflight.

They have launched several payloads to near space on high-altitude helium balloons and are designing a system to launch a rocket from a balloon platform to out space for under £1,000 a go.

Click to view image: 'Teddy Bear Space Walk'

Click to view image: 'Bears risking it all '

Added: Dec-4-2008 Occurred On: Dec-4-2008
By: Panda07
Tags: UK, Space race, Teddy Bears, NASA
Views: 11390 | Comments: 14 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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