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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Teddy bear astronaut to lift off
Terence the teddy takes off from Los Angeles on Wednesday
A teddy bear from Cumbria is launching into space to raise cash for charity.

Terence, a seasoned traveller who has been to Iraq, will be the guest of honour on aviation legend Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne when it flies above Earth.

The mission takes off from California on Wednesday, and on his return the cuddly toy will be auctioned off in aid of the North Air Ambulance Appeal.

SpaceShipOne is the world's first private spacecraft, and is competing for a prestigious space travel prize.

Chief executive of the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), Graham Pickering, said "flying officer" Terence had been handed over to the RAF six months ago and staff had been receiving postcards from him ever since.

He said: "Terence was a fundraising idea that really took off.

"We have received pictures of him in a U2 craft, trying parachuting and even looking drunk and disorderly.

'Problems resolved'

"When the RAF finally discharge him he will be a very rare bear indeed - we just hope he does not burn up on re-entry to Earth."

GNAAS, which needs charitable donations of more than 2m a year, has three air ambulances based at Appleby, in Cumbria, Durham Tees Valley Airport and in Blyth in Northumberland.

Peter Bond, spokesman for the Royal Astronomical Society, said Terence's safety was not guaranteed.

He said: "This is a new and experimental craft and this will only be the second time it has flown.

"During its first voyage it developed technical problems but hopefully they have now been resolved."

Since May, Terence has spent time with members of 100 Squadron based at RAF Leeming in Basra, Iraq, and at airshows with performing fighter planes.

SpaceShipOne will fly 100km (62 miles) above the Earth's surface, just breaking through the planet's atmosphere.

If it repeats the feat inside two weeks, it will claim the $10m Ansari X-Prize set up to galvanise the private spaceflight business.

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