Hamster Returns Alive After Daring Balloon Ride to Earth’s Stratosphere
Future tests have been planned to extend the maximum altitude to 25 kilometers (15 miles), the height at which humans begin to see the curvature of Earth. The Sapporo-based space venture hopes to build off the recent momentum and carry out a manned mission before the year’s end.
The record-setting rodent’s maiden test flight was deemed a success after the hamster’s balloon reached an altitude of 23 kilometers (14 miles) and returned back to Earth, where it was then retrieved by Iwatani Giken off Japan’s Miyako Island.
The Sapporo-based company was founded in 2016 and serves clients within the aerospace sector. Iwatani Giken specializes in space balloons, space travel research, remote sensing, and other space experiments.
The airtight, company-developed cabin was measured at 60 centimeters in height and 50 centimeters in diameter, and lifted off from the Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture, on June 9.
The cylindrical aircraft is said to have maintained the same atmospheric pressure and temperature as the ground as it climbed at an average of 6.3 meters (20.7 feet) per second.
A camera fixed to the inside of the aircraft cabin snapped a photograph of the hamster peering out the window while approximately 12 kilometers (7 miles) above Earth.
Maximum altitude was achieved within an hour of the balloon’s liftoff.
The company, which hopes to introduce manned space flights to the commercial market, confirmed to the Hokkaido Shimbun Press that the hamster is in good health following the venture.
Iwaya Giken told the outlet that it plans to conduct additional experiments to demonstrate the safety of traveling to the stratosphere, where folks can begin to “feel outer space.”
"We will continue to carry out experiments so that people can get on board and return safely,” a spokesperson told the outlet.