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Watch This Amazing 12-Year-Old Launch a Hello Kitty into Space [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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NASA doesn’t have a lock on space exploration anymore. Just ask Lauren Rojas, a seventh grader in Antioch, Calif., who recently launched a balloon to 93,625 feet* using a do-it-yourself balloon kit from High Altitude Science. In addition to an altimeter, thermometer, satellite tracker and a host of cameras, Rojas added a decorative rocket ship piloted by a Hello Kitty doll her dad got her on a business trip in Tokyo. The video climaxes at the 2:15 mark, when the balloon, having expanded to 53 times its original size in the low-pressure environment of the upper atmosphere, explodes as planned, starting the kit’s descent to Earth:

The project is a terrific illustration of just how accessible the near-space environment has become. High Altitude Science was founded two years ago by Joseph Maydell, a flight controller for the International Space Station at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, who wanted everyone to experience the beautiful views of the planet that he got to see in the course of his work. And in the coming years, private space companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic will start regularly flying rockets higher than the best weather balloons can fly. The benefit to space research—and to cheeky exploration videos—should be immense.

*: Yes, 93,625 feet is well short of the 62-mile-high Kármán line, the official boundary of space as recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). That shouldn’t diminish the excitement of the event.

About the Author: Michael Moyer is the editor in charge of space and physics coverage at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @mmoyr.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. soundaround 6:35 pm 02/4/2013

    That has to be one of the coolest things I have ever seen. If this had been possible 40 years ago I would be in a different career now. Thank you for sharing this awesome video!

    Link to this
  2. 2. Tim May 2:44 am 02/5/2013

    “If this had been available 40 years ago…”

    Rockets and balloons were available then. But, alas, well-heeled space dads paying for a 7th-grader to launch her doll into space were a bit less-common.

    Frankly, had Sci Am been running b.s. articles like this 40 years ago, I’d probably have gone into something more honest, like running a strip club or becoming a lawyer.

    Sci Am needs to stop constantly running these puff pieces.

    Link to this
  3. 3. ErnestPayne 2:54 pm 02/5/2013

    Puff Shmuff. Congratulations to the young lady. The current commander of the International Space Station got the “space bug” as a preteen and pursued his goal to his current job.

    Link to this
  4. 4. cccampbell38 4:10 pm 02/5/2013

    Tim,

    Get a life. And a little sense of humor and wonder.

    Link to this
  5. 5. PatriciaJH 10:37 am 02/6/2013

    Hmmm. And here I was thinking that it’s a powerful piece about girls no longer having to choose between pretty things, and science and engineering, and admiring the parenting style that supports that. What a big difference that would have made to me when I was a kid! Also loving the humor and design of the rocket!

    Young woman — SMITH COLLEGE ENGINEERING! Check out the art department, too!

    Link to this
  6. 6. SusieQue 12:36 pm 02/6/2013

    The video footage is great but why do we propagate the idea that girls will only like science if it is pink and has a stuffed animal – it’s not true!
    what did this girl actually do? – did you make the video, did she order and buy the equipment and put it together, did she write up a report and make a science fair poster? Give credit to girls who do hardcore science and math – there are plenty of real “amazing girls”!

    Link to this
  7. 7. Mendrys 3:58 am 02/7/2013

    SusieQue, perhaps its also not true that if a girl likes the color pink and stuffed animals she is unable to appreciate science. Maybe if you asked real nicely she would be happy to give you a written report on just what she did or did not do.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Farley 5:46 pm 02/7/2013

    It is amazing and disturbing how some people choose to stomp on a dream. If you check out where these balloons are purchased one sells for $50 and the premium unit for $95 and then everything else is recoverable except for the helium used. Judging by the height and payload she used the $50 balloon and the helium cost about $180. I applaud her father for giving her this incredible memory and maybe an increased interest in science. Can’t wait to show this video to my granddaughter and see if she wants to try. You don’t have to be a dreamer but it would be nice if you could at least encourage others.

    And BTW, if the balloon doesn’t reach 90k feet the next one is free.

    Link to this
  9. 9. BBV@Large 5:12 pm 02/8/2013

    I agree. If I had an experience like this I also would have gone into hard science.

    Link to this
  10. 10. elderlybloke 3:48 pm 02/9/2013

    What line of Business is Dad in?
    Might be Rocket Scientist.

    Link to this
  11. 11. SusieQue 5:34 pm 02/9/2013

    ACCORDING to the webpage below Rod Rojas is Sports Marketing Manager of Four Wheel Motorsports for GoPro.
    - 4 of their cameras were on board capturing the flight. Then another GoPro associated person made the video.
    http://www.scca.com/rallycross/news.cfm?cid=51153
    It was goPro’s video of the day for Feb 2 posted by “Melody Green”

    Link to this
  12. 12. mounthell 12:11 am 02/11/2013

    My daughter raised a scolding eyebrow (as if her seventh-grade-ness might say: “we are not amused”) when, after previewing the video, I gave her the URL and mentioned “Hello Kitty.” She near grudgingly started the video and passively watched the toy go up in the air and, as anyone might expect, would merely return to the California pavement.

    Then she gasped as the curvature of the earth filled the screen and watched in fascination at this near-18 mile giant, round-trip ‘step’ her peer and family made!

    Well done, Lauren Rojas, Rojas family and coworkers!

    Link to this
  13. 13. George Smith 8:26 pm 02/11/2013

    @SusieQue, what were they supposed to do, edit that part out? You wouldn’t think hardcore feminists would be so angry to see the color pink. You do wonder, though, if this article would have been written if the seventh grader in question wasn’t female. I guess it’s important to show girls that they can be scientists, too. Girls are aware of that, though. They just think scientists are a bunch of nerds!

    Link to this
  14. 14. SusieQue 4:29 pm 02/18/2013

    So did she win the science fair?

    Link to this

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