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Monday, 08 December 2008 15:11

Brit kids send bears into space

Not to be outdone by recent Chinese and Indian adventures in space, the Brits have upped their game and launched four teddy bears wearing space suits to an altitude of just over 30 km.

I am proud to be British, and part of that pride stems from a great tradition of eccentricity that my fellow Brits have exhibited over the centuries. However, I wasn't quite prepared for some news from the Cambridge University Spaceflight team.

For a start, I did not actually know that Cambridge University Spaceflight existed until the weekend. What is more, I was certainly not expecting to be told that it had successfully launched some astronauts into space.

Not least, perhaps, because the British government has something of a long-standing ban on astronauts. Admittedly, there had been some murmuring that the ban was going to be lifted in the light of renewed energy in the space race concept.

But no, the news was clear: four astronauts had been launched to an altitude of just over 30 km, each with a different spacesuit design, and temperatures were monitored to see how well each coped.

There are two truly surprising things about this story. The first is that the astronauts in question, considering the dangers of such a mission, were not brave volunteers nor convicted paedophiles.

The astronauts were, in fact, teddy bears. Teddy bears wearing space suits. Actually, to be precise they ended up as very cold teddy bears wearing space suits. "We fear that the bears may all have frozen" a Cambridge University Spaceflight spokesperson says.

Probably because every single one of the space suits allowed the teddy temperatures to drop below -40 degrees Centigrade. One went as low as -53, which is not conducive to being a happy bear.

The second surprise was that this was no hugely expensive space mission, but amazingly a school science project! Kids aged 11 and 12 from the Parkside and Coleridge Community Colleges in Cambridge were responsible for putting Brits back on the space map.

Still, bears are better than worms in space I guess. Not to mention Norton Nerds in space, or worse of all those darned robot therapists in space...


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