Sometimes one comes across an activity which is utterly pointless, but which is at the same time profoundly inspirational. It is possible that the original Apollo programme that landed human beings on the moon is one such endeavour. On a reduced scale The Register– a techy gossip web site – recently sponsored the PARIS project to release a paper aeroplane in space. I really wish I had the time to repeat this endeavour which I find inspiring in so many ways.
Put simply, they attached a (rather well-made) paper aeroplane to a weather balloon. The balloon had a camera attached and the aeroplane had a miniature radio transmitter. The plan was that when the balloon burst – which it did at around 29 kilometres (three times the height of Mount Everest) – the paper aeroplane would be released and the team would be able to track it and recover it!
At the end of this project the team managed to (a) recover photographs such as the one above showing the curve of the Earth, the glowing blue of the atmosphere, and the blackness of space and (b) actually the recover the paper aeroplane essentially undamaged.
This is not the first time I have been inspired by this endeavour – I remember writing about this back in March. But the Register’s have published lots of details about what they did and how they did it.
If I were wearing a hat, I would take it off to them.