When we think of astronauts, we don't typically think of animals being sent up into space. But recently, a hamster was, in fact, shot up into the stratosphere on a flying balloon! The daring trip was successful as the little rodent has officially made his way back onto Earth safe and sound. Here's everything you need to know about the history-making trip.
Arguably the world's cutest astronaut has launched upwards of a maximum altitude of 14 miles (23km) as it entered the second layer of Earth's atmosphere - the stratosphere. The hamster was launched from Miyakojima in the Okinawa Prefecture last month. He was placed inside a specialized space cabin that was designed and created by space firm K.K. Iwaya Giken. It was an airtight cabin 60cm high and 50cm in diameter that had the same atmospheric pressure and temperature as the ground. Both the small animal and the balloon shot up data speed of 6.3 miles per second. It only took about an hour before they reached 23km to see a once-in-a-lifetime view of Earth.
The trip seemed to go smoothly for the hamster. Not only did he have a special comfortable seat, but a camera installed inside the cabin showed that he was actually sleeping during the gradual ascent. And at around seven miles (12km), he was seen looking out the window, enjoying the view above our planet.
The rodent was then brought back down and was in a safe condition as he was recovered from the sea off Japan's Miyako Island. The company that was in charge of the mission of sending the hamster to the stratosphere is named Iwatani Giken. Their goal with the experiment was to show others that it is completely safe and simple to allow space travel to the masses. And the experiment was developed to make would-be consumers feel at ease with doing so. Currently, the company is planning to do more test flights that are going to reach an altitude of 15 miles (25km) above Earth. This height would mean that people would be able to see the curvature of Earth! Stay tuned for updates.