A group of primary school children were over the moon today after successfully launching a POTATO dressed as Father Christmas into SPACE.
Pupils at Landscove CofE Primary School dressed the spud with a white beard and red bobble hat before positioning him into a ‘shuttle’ made out of a two-litre plastic drink bottle.
The ‘spacechip’ – named Spudnik2 – was then tied to a helium weather balloon with a camera attached and launched from the local village car park in Devon.
They watched as it soared 17 miles up – reaching 90,000ft – before the balloon to burst and the shuttle floated back down to earth on a parachute and landed 140 miles away in Hampshire.
Spudnik2 was located due to its GPS tracking system and the teachers and pupils were delighted to discover the camera had captured these stunning images from space.
Headteacher Robin Smith admitted it was a ”mad idea” but was also a way of teaching youngsters – who designed several ”pilots” – about space and the earth’s atmosphere.
He said: ”The kids loved doing things that are unusual, so if you tell them they will be launching a potato into space you really engage their interest.
”It may seems like a mad idea, but it was a unique project and the children really learned a lot from the experience.
”We try to provide an education that enhances the children’s creative skills and encourages them to find solutions to problems.
”This project was a really good way to develop this side of their thinking. It was ridiculous but really good fun.”
The project – which carried the catchline ”one small step for spud, one giant leap for spudkind” – was given the name Spudnik2 after the first mission – Spudnik1 – failed.
Around 60 children aged between seven and 10 were involved in the project with help from IT boffin Alex Henderson, who runs local organic farm Riverford.
The pupils dressed the organic potato in a Father Christmas costume and placed it in a capsule, in the style of a rocket ship, made out of a two-litre fizzy drink bottle.
They launched the spud in December last year and it was in flight for a total of two hours and 20 minutes.
It came back down to Earth on a parachute and landed in a Christmas tree plantation near Basingstoke.
Teacher Hilary Gibbard, whose Keystage 2 youngsters designed the outfit for the potato, said the project as ”amazing”.
She added: ”The potato was launched into space by a balloon and when it popped it came back down to Earth.
”Throughout the flight, the camera was working and taking pictures. The images we found were just amazing – literally out of this world.
”It was so exciting for the children to see their potato and the space shuttle they designed all the way up in space.”
Landscove Primary School is a village primary school near Ashburton, south Devon and has 105 pupils.
News of their space mission comes just a week after three British boffins launched a paper aeroplane into space from a launch site near Madrid, Spain.