Paper airplane touches the edge of space, glides back safely

Newspaper-sponsored glider theoretically intended to reignite U.K. space fever

Think you built some pretty cool paper airplanes as a kid?

Did you and your grew-up-to-be-engineer buddies build elaborate models and R/C boats and erector-set creations that stunned the other boys until they discovered girls and first-person-shooters and started calling you a geek?

Cower in awe before Brits Steve Daniels, John Oates and Lester Haines , who built a one-wing glider from paper, lofted it to the edge of space at 90,000 feet with a helium balloon, and posted sound and video recordings from the plane as it glided safely back to the ground.

They got help on the $13,000 project, if that makes you feel better. The Register newspaper helped sponsor it, primarily as a reader-involvement publicity stunt. It reported each step of the process and manufacturer, from CAD/CAM design work, to testing in a hypobaric chamber and weeks of development. British defense-contractor Qinetiq supplied the cameras, testing chambers and, presumably, weapons systems.

The paper expressed its joy at the successful flight -- and more importantly the "GLOBAL MEDIA SENSATION" it caused, in typical understated British fashion.

No one admitted helping with the name of the glider, PARIS, which is an acronym for Paper Aircraft Released Into Space. If you click the Register link above, there were far more interesting names in the reader poll.

Here's the Reg's video of the launch.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

This story, "Paper airplane touches the edge of space, glides back safely" was originally published by ITworld.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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