Our leaders may be faltering when it comes to sending men into space, but the youth know what's up. Specifically, they know how to get objects like Camilla the solar radiation-measuring rubber chicken up into the stratosphere.
Watch this rubber chicken's glorious ascent from the hands of a group of high schoolers to the edge of space 119,000 feet above the ground.
While the name Camilla Corona sounds more like an infamous jewel thief from Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego, it's actually the name of the mascot of the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory. It's a rubber chicken whose main job is to encourage girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers (STEM).
Her latest stunt was a trip into space in a knit space suit fitted with radiation badges courtesy of a giant helium balloon launched by students at Bishop Union High School in Southern California.
The goal was to measure the energy released by an M8-class solar flare early on March 10, 2012. Camilla was tucked into her small spaceship — it's actually a lunch box — and climbed for two hours until the balloon expanded so much it exploded. You can see Camilla pause for a moment before starting her 500 mph descent back toward Earth.
Onboard with Camilla were seven insects and two dozen sunflower seeds, which the students are analyzing (along with radiation measurements) as part of their experiment. As you'd expect, none of insects survived, but they're testing the seeds.
Earlier this year, two Canadian teens sent a Lego mini fig 79,000 feet into the atmosphere. It was a great feat, but we're still happy to see American high schoolers besting that distance by 40,000 more.