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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Sending Pudsey to space (almost)
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

Pudsey over Cambridgeshire
Pudsey's journey began in a field at Elsworth, Cambridgeshire

Pudsey bear was sent 20 miles into the sky for Children in Need 2009 with the help of a Suffolk engineer.

Steve Randall of Felixstowe attached a soft toy version of Pudsey to a balloon and a video camera and sent it up from a field in Cambridgeshire.

The contraption reached 100,000 feet before the bear and camera came back to earth and landed near Bury St Edmunds.

Steve is looking to auction the bear that nearly made it into space to help raise more money.

"The payloads could be used for scientific purposes like atmospheric sampling - measuring ozone or measuring carbon dioxide," said Steve.

But not in this case - the payload was a cuddly soft toy rather than scientific measuring equipment.

The Pudsey idea was a follow-up to a similar project Steve did with the team at BBC TV's Bang Goes The Theory programme.

They sent a 12 inch high model astronaut into the sky in honour of the US high altitude parachutist Joe Kittinger.

Kittinger fell back to earth from 102,800 feet in 1960 as part of a project which preceded man going into space.

Project Pudsey

Steve Randall with his Pudsey balloon
Steve Randall prepares the balloon for Pudsey's maiden voyage

The toy bear sits in a balsa wood cradle which has video and stills cameras attached to it.

The high altitude balloon is filled with helium and has a diameter of two metres at ground level.

When it's launched and reaches the 20 mile mark changes in pressure mean the rubber or latex material expands to an eight metre diameter and it would ultimately 'pop' before it ever reached space itself.

The cradle is cut from the balloon by remote control and it returns to earth by parachute with the cameras encased in polystyrene to protect them and whatever they land on.

"Typically we won't launch them if we think they're going to land in or near a large city. We have prediction software which models the ascent and descent.

"We also make sure the jet stream isn't very fast. If you launched the balloon in that, it would carry it a long way, so it's only one or two days a month that we can launch.

"We're lucky if we get within a kilometre, but we have been as close as that before so it's reasonably possible to make sure it's not going to land in a town centre."

The team launched the bear from a field at Elsworth in Cambridgeshire and tracked its landing to Thurston in Suffolk.

You can watch the Pudsey balloon preparation video and Steve's video diary of Pudsey's launch and flight .

Auction time

Pudsey goes ballooning in the stratosphere
Pudsey in the stratosphere where he reached 100,000 ft

Now that Pudsey's back at Steve's home in Felixstowe, he wants to raise some more money for Children in Need.

"I really enjoyed this project. It's quite different from the normal altitude stuff I do.

"It's quite technically challenging getting them back, but tracking them is another thing because sometimes the payload lands in the North Sea.

"So it's always a relief to find things in one piece again! And the pictures are sometimes just astounding."

You can e-mail Steve Randall for more details.

Steve's next project is getting a balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

"It's a slightly different thing called a zero pressure balloon which is open at the bottom and tends to go up and just float at a certain altitude.

"One of the issues we've got is getting FAA [US Federal Aviation Administration] approval because it'll be launched in the US.

"At the moment we're looking at doing a crossing to Africa rather than Europe because that seems to be easier to get FAA approval for."




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