Plugged In

Lego space shuttle crosses final frontier — for real

Plugged In

When the Lego designers came up with kit number 3367, a stubby model of the Space Shuttle from the Lego City series, they probably didn't intend it to actually fly.

But they didn't count on the efforts of Romanian tinkerer Raul Oaida, who tied one to a weather balloon and sent it to the very edge of space. With a camera attached, naturally.

The Lego shuttle reached an altitude of 35,000 meters -- over 20 miles -- and withstood temperatures as low as -58F. Not nearly as rough as the conditions real Shuttles have to endure, to be sure, but still way out of the design envelope for a Lego toy.

[ Related: Gingrich Space Plan Promises the Moon, Literally ]

Oaida's rig included a GoPro Hero high-definition video camera, a custom-made mounting rig made from balsa wood and styrofoam, a parachute borrowed from a model rocket, and a Spot GPS unit to help him recover the whole thing once it came back to Earth. He glued the model's bricks together in order to help it withstand the high winds, and equipped it with chemical handwarmers to prevent the camera batteries from giving out in the sub-freezing temperatures.

What's next for Raul? We don't know -- but we'd like to direct his attention to set number 4888. We'd like to see what's at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, Lego-style.

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