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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Search to find Lego George missing after Cockermouth School space mission

When George was sent to explore the far reaches of the earth’s atmosphere, no-one considered that he may never return.

Cockermouth School astronaut photo
Lego George

Related: Cumbrian school pupils launch gadget to 'edge of space'

The small Lego man’s bold adventure should have come to an end within hours, but the Cockermouth School sixth form students who launched him into space yesterday started a campaign to help bring home their mini astronaut.

Two teams of pupils, studying physics, sent giant helium balloons flying into the earth’s atmosphere on Wednesday, as part of a project called Mission Control Cumbria.

Over the last few months the young hopefuls had worked alongside a team of highly trained professionals, scientists and engineers from west Cumbrian firms React Engineering, CREATEC, R3i and HiDef Aerial Surveying to develop a successful device.

The 12 pupils attached recording equipment capable of reaching the highest altitude, with the aim of capturing the curvature of the earth. They planned to retrieve the data once the balloon came back to earth – tracking it using a GPS signal.

However, while one of the balloons landed five hours later – coincidentally in a field less than two miles from Cockermouth School – the second never reappeared.

Rik Smith, head of science, said: “Unfortunately, we know that the battery in the GPS system on the second balloon has now died – it used a different tracking form to the first.

Watch the Cockermouth School balloon mission. Article continues below...


“There is the possibility the balloon is still up in the air, just hovering, but we genuinely don’t know. The only way we will find it now is if someone effectively trips over it.”

As for the balloon’s missing passenger, Mr Smith sad: “Unfortunately, George is on the missing pod, and so we are appealing for help to find him.

“The students have been in contact with Lego, who are as keen as we are for information on his location.”

The loss is particularly disappointing, as the only way to retrieve the data from the camera is to physically collect the memory card.

Images, video and data from the first balloon have already proven their worth.

“The atmospheric pressure when we released the balloons was 100,000 Pa, and the data shows it reached an atmosphere less than 40 Pa – it was on the edge of the earth’s atmosphere,” Mr Smith said.

“It has just been a phenomenal success; I am almost beyond words.”

Students and staff at the school are now appealing for walkers, motorists and residents in west and north Cumbria to keep their eyes open for the missing pod. Weather predictions suggest it may be near Mealsgate.

It is made of white polystyrene and about the size of a small shoebox. It will have a series of strings attached to it, possibly a black umbrella still attached and maybe the remains of a latex balloon.

The box has various stickers and phone numbers on it – although the cold weather and atmospheric pressure may have removed some of these.

Anyone who finds the pod is urged to call Cockermouth School on 01900 898888.

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