Feb. 6, 2013 at 4:58 PM ET
High-altitude balloon missions are so mainstream that iPhones, "Star Trek" action figures, Lego toys and political bobblehead dolls have all taken their turns rising to the edge of space — but what about Hello Kitty? Now the lovable Japanese plush cat has made its own mark on the final frontier, thanks to 13-year-old Lauren Rojas.
Rojas, a seventh-grader at Cornerstone Christian School in Antioch, Calif., settled on the idea of sending a Hello Kitty doll to the stratosphere for her science project. The doll was provided by her dad, who picked it up during up a business trip to Tokyo. The girl (who was 12 at the time) perched the kitty in a cute silver rocket ship, positioned it amid flight gear from High Altitude Science, festooned the rig with GoPro Hero2 video cameras, filled up the lighter-than-air balloon — and then let 'er rip.
The aim of Rojas' experiment was to gauge air pressure and temperature as the balloon-borne experiment package rose — and she picked up some interesting effects: The peak winds exceeded 60 mph at the 10,000-foot level. The temperature fell from 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) as low as 22 degrees below zero F (-30 degrees C) when the balloon popped at an altitude of 93,625 feet (28,537 meters).
That's less than a third of the way to the internationally accepted boundary of outer space, which is at an altitude of 62 miles or 100 kilometers. But as this YouTube video about the flight demonstrates, it's high enough to get a great view of Earth below the black sky of space. The package fell back to Earth and landed 47 miles (75 kilometers) from the launch site, 50 feet up in the branches of a tree. Which is an apt place for a wayward kitty to end up.
For more about the feat, check out this report from the New York Daily News.
Still more high-altitude adventures:
Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.
Published at 3:58 p.m. ET Feb. 6.