“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”
–“High Flight” (1941) by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
In 2012 five friends from Harvard used a weather balloon to launch the first hamburger into space. The helium-filled weather balloon, which lifted from Sturbridge, Mass., also carried a GoPro Hero camera and a GPS tracker as it floated about 98,000 feet above the Earth. The package landed in a tree about 130 miles away.
It wasn’t the first unusual object to be launched by space enthusiasts, and certainly not the last.
Click through to watch videos of some of the more esoteric objects to have graced Earth’s upper-atmosphere.
Under their Project Helium Tears, British science enthusiasts Matt Kingsnorth and Phil St. Pier launched a Star Wars X-Wing fighter to an altitude of about 100,000 feet.
Their YouTube video of the ascent showcased their true mission, with a message aimed at the director of the latest “Star Wars” film:
“Hey J.J. Abrams! Can we have 2 tickets to the VIP premiere of ‘The Force Awakens’? Ordinarily the answer would be no … so we thought we’d try something extraordinary. We know you like practical effects and shooting in real locations.”
High-altitude weather balloons (or nearspace craft) can rise to 90,000-100,000 feet until the balloon – expanding in the vacuum of sub-orbital altitudes – bursts.
FAA regulations require that air traffic controllers in the area of the launch be alerted. The size/weight of the payload may also fall under FAA regs requiring permits.
The cost of such a hobby is cheap, however, with a balloon, helium, parachute, camera and GPS locating device (to help you track your package once it falls back to Earth) available for a few hundred dollars.
In 2011 Home Instead Senior Care, a Va.-based organization for home caregivers, sponsored a weather balloon launch in West Point, Ga., on which GoPro cameras documented the bobblehead doll’s ascent to 114,000 feet.
And while former astronaut John Glenn never made it to the White House, in 2012 the two presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did.
And last year, Walter White, the protagonist of the TV series “Breaking Bad,” hit new highs.
A miniature Robby the Robot, who debuted in the 1956 science fiction film, “Forbidden Planet,” visited the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere in 2010, captured by a GoPro camera. The footage was later used in GoPro advertising campaigns.
”I’ll get you, Red Baron!”
Students from Austintown Middle School in Ohio launched Snoopy into space.
Really Cold Beverages
A can of Natural Light beer was launched in 2011. The following year, a slightly more scientific experiment was conducted by launching a Coors Light, with a thermometer attached. How cold did that beer get? About -60 degrees F!
In 2013 students from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy — obviously too young to drink — sent a Coke can aloft.
As part of an advertising campaign, the German label-making firm Felga launched a potted plant.
Tandoori Lamb Chop
What to do to promote a new novel titled “Meatspace”? How about send meat into space? Hence the video showing a lamb chop being speared at a London restaurant, Tayyabs, then being attached to a weather balloon. Accompanied by jaunty music (sample lyrics: “Meatspace!”), the lamp chop is soon above the Earth where, of course, lamb chops should be.
Flag-waving figurines, Lego figures and dolls have been launched, heralding fealty to the U.K., Canada, and France.
This balloon not only carried a slice of Williamsburg Pizza but also broadcast music by the New York City band Anamanaguchi (to help track the package once it landed). Footage was incorporated into their music video for their snappy “Endless Fantasy,” but the two-hour raw footage was also posted online.
Among the objects borne aloft by weather balloons are an iPad (airlifted by a company selling protective cases, and yes, theirs worked), and an iPhone launched by Darwin Aerospace.
The phone rose to 90,000 feet before falling towards Pyramid Lake in Nevada.
For his video Ron Fugelseth launched his young son’s favorite “Thomas the Tank Engine” character, Stanley, then animated his eyes using Adobe After Effects and Photoshop.
Hmmm … Donuts
On April 9, 2015, a donut made one small steps for pastries, one giant leap for donutkind.
Lego Space Shuttle
The space shuttle era may have ended, but not for a Romanian enthusiast, Raul Oaida, who sent a Lego Space Shuttle into orbit. The strings helped.
Candymaker Nestle sent a British Kit Kat bar into space.
The allure of viral videos has also attracted activists to bring their message high above the Earth.
This 2012 video supported an imprisoned human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was engaged in a hunger strike in an Iranian prison …
… while California education activists promoted “yes” votes on two ballot propositions in 2012.
Andrew Kovatch’s entry in the 2012 Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” commercial contest features a bag of Doritos carried above the Earth. The bag popped open at high altitudes, but there were still chips inside once it crunch-landed.
SpongeBob Square Pants
A fish out of water, to say the least: SpongeBob Square Pants is carried into space.
Santa and Rudolph
A weather balloon sent aloft by Stratodean (a.k.a. the U.K.’s Mark Ireland and Cassie Phelps) caught sight of Santa and his pal, Rudolph, during a 2013 flight.