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Your input invited for audacious upper-atmosphere mission

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

It's official: We here at the Vulture Central Science Bureau have had enough of writing about space shuttles, orbiting Japanese laboratories and Chinese taikonauts, when the best the UK's space programme can offer is to lose touch with a 300g wedge of Somerset farmhouse cheddar somewhere over the south of England.

Accordingly, we've decided to restore national pride by resurrecting our space payload mission - inspired by Cambridge Uni's 2006 Nova 1 flight.

Readers may recall we invited suggestions as to just what we could send aloft beneath a weather balloon, and the overwhelming response was this: A high-tech paper plane, GPS-tracked from 100,000ft and recovered by pursuit teams following what will doubtless be the longest paper plane flight ever recorded in the annals of human aerospace endeavour.

Well, the mission is officially go for summer 2010. Our initial thoughts are these:

  • Balsa/paper aircraft construction, capable of carrying GPS payload and withstanding extreme conditions at altitude and subsequently glide gently to earth.
  • Mechanism to release aircraft from balloon at preset altitude (relying on balloon burst not a good idea).
  • Mobile GPS tracking set-up to allow pursuit.
  • Possible on-board photographic capability?

Our tentative plan is to construct three aircraft: Low altitude prototype for initial testing; fully-equipped medium altitude example for systems-test release from aircraft; and the final operational model.

As you can see, there's not much more to it than that at present, so this is where you lot come in. We're inviting comments, suggestions and contributions to this audacious mission, starting with a name for the aircraft.

Once christened, we'll set about drafting our initial design, and invite further reader input in putting together the prototype.

So, let's get to it. Post your naming suggestion as a comment to this article, or email me here. Likewise, if you want to get involved, drop me a line explaining just why you've got the right stuff for this mission. Offers of suitable kit and supplies are, of course, more than welcome. ®

Bootnote

We're expecting plenty of press coverage for this revitalisation of the UK's space programme, so any corporate sponsors who'd like to back us should contact Phil Mitchell here.

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