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Mission control reacquires UK space cheddar

Recovered intact in Bucks

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The UK's ambitious space cheese mission was yesterday spared total humiliation when the 300g lump of Somerset farmhouse cheddar sent into the upper atmosphere was recovered from a garden in Buckinghamshire.

The intact wedge of dairy produce came down in Cressex - 74 miles from its launch point in Pewsey, Wiltshire. It had been carried to an altitude of 18.6 miles by a helium weather balloon which then burst as planned, but ground-based cheese trackers lost contact with the parachuting cheddar following the failure of the payload's GPS system.

The unnamed woman who found the cheese wisely turned it in at High Wycombe police station yesterday evening. West Country Cheesemakers' mission controller Dom Lane told the BBC: "I am driving back from High Wycombe with the cheese now. I may try a bit to see if it has matured at high altitude and then it will probably go into a glass case at our production offices."

Sadly, the onboard digital camera intended to record the mission also failed, so the photographic gallery of Britain's space programme will for the foreseeable future be limited to a couple of snaps of the Black Arrow rocket and NASA images of the Beagle 2 crash site. ®

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