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Bonsai tree and flowers, in spaaaaace! (pictures)

A bonsai tree and a floral bouquet float into the stratosphere, where they're photographed before being lost forever. Why? Art -- that's why.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
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1 of 7 Makoto Azuma

Stratospheric floral arranging

Japanese floral artist Makoto Azuma has been making Earth-bound floral arrangements for years. Recently, however, he decided to launch his work into our stratosphere and take a series of striking photographs as part of an art project titled Exobiotanica.

Here, he covers a lightweight metal cage with 30 different varieties of flowers including peace lilies, dahlias, and hydrangeas. "I am using brightly colored flowers from around the world so they contrast against the darkness of space," he told The New York Times.

See related article: Bonsai and bouquet photographed in the stratosphere

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2 of 7 Makoto Azuma

Bon voyage bonsai

Makoto Azuma had a 50-year-old bonsai tree from his own collection flown from Japan to the United States in a special box for the project. The tree was launched from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada -- site of the annual Burning Man festival -- at 6:30 in the morning.

See related article: Bonsai and bouquet photographed in the stratosphere

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3 of 7 Makoto Azuma

Up, up and away

To get his flowers and mini tree airborne, floral artist Makoto Azuma worked with JP Aerospace, which bills itself as an independent space program. "The JPA team consists of volunteers who design, solder, test, and assemble some of the most innovative hardware in aerospace today," says the company's website.

Here, the team readies one of the two vessels for its flight skyward. The system that carried the bouquet was called Away 100, while the one carrying the bonsai was Away 101. They both consisted of lightweight metal cages attached to weather balloons. Each had a series of still and video cameras as well as a Spot GPS tracker so that they could locate the equipment once it fell back to Earth on its parachute-assisted return.

See related article: Bonsai and bouquet photographed in the stratosphere

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4 of 7 Makoto Azuma

'Up'rooted

The bonsai shown in the stratosphere. It made it to 91,800 feet before its weather balloon popped. Although the equipment it was attached to was recovered, the tree wasn't.

See related article: Bonsai and bouquet photographed in the stratosphere

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5 of 7 Makoto Azuma

A bouquet for Mother Earth

Most bouquets are displayed on a table. This one had the whole Earth as its backdrop. It reached a height of 87,000 feet before its balloon popped. The flowers were never seen again.

See related article: Bonsai and bouquet photographed in the stratosphere

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6 of 7 Makoto Azuma

Peace plant

Another shot of the bonsai. Makoto Azuma has a collection of over 100 of the diminutive trees -- minus this one, of course.

See related article: Bonsai and bouquet photographed in the stratosphere

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7 of 7 Makoto Azuma

Bouquet burst

The floral arrangement started to come apart in the stratosphere, making this shot even more captivating.

See related article: Bonsai and bouquet photographed in the stratosphere

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