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Canadian teens send Legonaut 15 miles into atmosphere

Two 12th graders send a Lego man 80,000 feet up to record some incredible visuals of the planet.

No spacesuit required: The Lego man floated some 15 miles above sea level.
Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Why build a Gingrichian lunar colony, which would cost billions, when you can send a man nearly into space for only $400?

That's what Canadians Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad did with an albeit plastic man from Lego and a modified weather balloon.

The 17-year-olds from Toronto bought an $85 weather balloon online and rigged it to a Styrofoam box equipped with three point-and-shoot cameras and a wide-angle video camera.

They threw in $160 worth of helium from a party supply store, a dash of superglue, and voila, a Legonaut was born.

The toy ascended 80,000 feet over Ontario, recording the awesome footage in the video below, before floating back to Earth some 97 minutes later on a homemade nylon parachute.

It landed near Rice Lake, some 75 miles away from the soccer field where it was launched. A GPS-enabled cell phone onboard told the boys where to go.

The project took about four months of planning on Saturdays, but it wasn't homework for the pair of 12th graders at the Agincourt Collegiate Institute.

Ho, who has dreams of being an entrepreneur, decided to try his hand at astral toy tourism after watching a video in which MIT students sent a camera to the edge of space for a mere $150.

Ho suggested a similar experiment to Muhammad, who wants to become an aircraft technician, and the relatively big-budget space shot got underway.

The teens actually had a spending limit of $500, but buying cameras on Craigslist and Kijiji kept the launch under budget.

All the equipment worked well thanks in part to onboard mitten warmers that kept it from freezing. When they spotted the Lego man's spacecraft in the brush, "We kind of started jumping, because there was no one around, so you could do that," Muhammad was quoted as saying by The Toronto Star.

When they took the Legonaut home and uploaded 1,500 pics and two videos to a home computer, the two were so happy they started screaming.

Congrats to Ho, Muhammad, and Legonaut, star of the greatest Lego story since The Brick Testament.

(Via The Toronto Star)