Today's Inspiring Aerospace News: Hello Kitty Touches the Face of God

You might already have seen this. I hadn't until just now, thanks to reader RJ of California (and in his case via The Register; also, NY Daily News). It's an absolutely charming video and set of photos from a science project by Lauren Rojas, a 13-year-old in Antioch, California, east of San Francisco. She decided to send a Hello Kitty "catonaut" nearly 100,000 feet into space, with a high-altitude balloon, and to record the results.

Those results really are amazing. You'll see the whole thing laid out in the video -- with a dramatic climax around time 2:15. At that point the balloon that has carried its passenger into "near space" finally explodes -- and the spacecraft's descent, under a small parachute, begins.

Ms. Rojas obviously had help with the balloon rigs and photographic systems -- which is another great lesson from the experiment, in that innovation and discovery involve both collaboration and individual pondering. Here is just one of the stills from the flight -- not some CGI recreation but an actual photo, from the high-def camera that went aloft with H. Kitty.


And here is the video. Congrats to all. Finally I see a reason for Hello Kitty having come into existence.

* Before anyone gets huffy about the headline: "Touch the face of God" is an allusion to the most famous bit of poetry about aerial exploration, either moving or trite depending on your outlook. You can look it up, learn its heroic-tragic military origin, and also trace its role in American politics. Or you can just enjoy this video.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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