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Wanted: Paper Planes From Space

Joel Veitch
Joel Veitch, a Web animator from England, is the team leader for Project Space Planes.

Paper Planes
The 200 paper airplanes were carried aloft in a net by a helium-filled balloon.

February 10, 2011 — In the ever-growing realm of amateur balloon launches to the edge of space comes a project in which dozens of paper planes are carried aloft by a helium balloon and then released at an altitude of 112,00 feet.  The paper planes, each carrying a Samsung SD memory card with a text or video message on them, then glide for as long as the winds of hope will carry them. A group of Britons sent a balloon aloft in Germany and so far they have received reports from just about every continent that one of their planes has been found.

Through the Project Space Planes blog, the team solicited photos, letters, videos, and songs from readers that would be placed on Samsung SD memory cards and affixed to the planes. Samsung provided the cards as a way to demonstrate the durability of its cards.

The original launch site was to be in England but weather delays moved it to Wolfsburg, in the northern part of Germany. On January 17, 2011, the team sent 200 planes to 122,503 feet, where they were released. The balloon and video camera were found in a tree 186 miles away. The balloon released the planes just south of Berlin and some planes were located nearby. Then reports came in from the Netherlands; Winnipeg, Canada; California; and South Africa. Veitch believes the South Africa report is likely erroneous due to weather patterns, but later he would confirm through the blog that planes were also found in Russia, Australia, and India.

Read about other space plane projects

Joel Veitch led the project and assembled a team that includes some of the top players in their respective fields. Steve Randall was tasked with designing the craft that would carry the cargo aloft and then release the planes. Robert Harrison is a passionate amateur high-altitude balloonist. The Project Space Planes blog claims his high-altitude photos have been viewed by 1.8 billion people. Andy Chipling is an active participant at the World Paper Aircraft event and created the paper aircraft design, made of heavy card stock and waterproofed.

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