Richard Branson is doing his thing with space flights, sure. It’s a nice idea but let’s be honest, I doubt I’ll be able to afford the journey.
So, when I get an email telling me that a space flight can be done for less than £135 I’m already pretty interested.
There’s a few caveats. For starters, you’re not going to be on-board. You can instead send a small object like a lego man, wooden train or watch up into the stratosphere.
Now, if I know your browsing habits like I think I do (you filthy monkey), you’ll probably have seen this particular video…
If you want to do something similar, you can. Just head to sentintospace.com and you can watch similar videos or buy a kit to send stuff up there yourself. The kits have everything you’ll need – a balloon, a locator, parachute etc. Sure, there’s a few things you’ll need to consider, like landing predictors and filling in the necessary CAA forms so that you don’t go twisting your balloon around the engine of a passing Airbus.
A lot of schools and colleges are getting involved in all this, but Alex Baker and Chris Rose, former PhD students at the University of Sheffield, can send your package to the edge of space if you don’t want to do all the helium filling and filming too.
YORKSHIRE SPACE PIONEERS OFFER SPACE FLIGHTS FOR CHRISTMAS FOR LESS THAN £1,000
— DIY space ship kits capable of travelling to the stratosphere also available for as little as £135
It’s a golden age for British space flight, with scientists last week declaring their ambition to land a British probe on the moon and British scientists contributing to the successful landing of a dishwasher-sized probe on a comet.
Now the space race is truly on again, as a pair of Yorkshire entrepreneurs are offering customers sub-£1,000 space flights in the lead up to Christmas as part of what they are describing as an ‘out of this world’ sale.
Alex Baker and Chris Rose, former PhD students at the University of Sheffield, are offering to send customized packages to the edge of space – and film and photograph each mission for posterity.
Based at their Sheffield HQ, nicknamed ‘Cape Kebaberal’ as a homage to NASA’s Florida spaceport and their favourite student food, Alex and Chris send packages on high altitude balloons into the stratosphere and recover them on landing.
The flights reach altitudes greater than that reached for Felix Baumgartner’s famous space jump. Items that have flown so far include a cricket ball, Lego models of Radio DJs, a £12,000 diamond, several newspaper front pages, photos (the ultimate selfie) and more. At the heights reached, the curvature of the Earth is clearly visible, as is the blackness of space.
Alex Baker said: “Yorkshire isn’t well known as a leader in space exploration but we are trying to change that. We’re selling discounted flights – and a range of DIY kits that come with full instructions. Christmas is just around the corner and a space flight would be a brilliant surprise for the armchair astronaut or sci-fi buff.”
The DIY kits, priced now at £135, have been especially popular with schools, enabling students to grasp the possibilities of space for a fraction of the cost of missions sent from world-famous space centers.
The passion for space flight grew out of the pair’s academic work, which included several high-altitude experiments, including harvesting the upper atmosphere for evidence of organic particles delivered by comets.
Alex and Chris have a website, sentintospace.com, that features details of all of their products and services. The fully-managed flights are complex, with special permission required from the Civil Aviation Authority. High altitude wind speeds are monitored – and weather conditions – prior to a flight to avoid, as Alex puts it, “a surprise trip to Moscow.” A tracking device on all flights enables the recovery team to collect the packages which parachute safely to Earth at the end of the flight.
The entrepreneurs have no immediate plans to send paying passengers aloft, but with British space technology advancing at a rate of knots, the sky may not be the limit for long.