Star Trek Toys Boldly Go Into Stratosphere

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Space. The final frontier. Lifelong Star Trek fan Logan Kugler might not have sent Enterprise captains Jean-Luc Picard and James Tiberius Kirk into space proper, but he did launch their action figure counterparts into the stratosphere last month as the culmination of a whimsical Kickstarter campaign.

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Kugler claims to have seen 500 episodes of the series, plus every movie, and has a particular affinity for the character of Picard. “If Captain Picard were real, he would be my #1 hero,” Kugler writes over at StarTrek.com. When a mutual friend showed him a Picard action figure by the campfire one night, he got the idea to send the plastic Picard into space — or at least the upper atmosphere, via a weather balloon.

And heck, if you’re going to go to all that trouble to send up Picard, you might as well give him some company for the ride — in this case, Riker, Data, and custom-made figures of two producers behind the 2009 Star Trek film, J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci. Oh, and six HD cameras to record the whole thing.

Kugler raised over $6000 for the mission via Kickstarter, enough to partner with Spencer Gore, an engineering student at the University of Illinois who founded a company called Space for All, specializing in using high-altitude balloons to launch payloads into the stratosphere. That’s the region starting around 65,000 feet, up to 327,359 feet, where one truly reaches the fringes of “outer” space.

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On the morning of May 5, Kugler and his crew trekked out to a state park in central Illinois for the launch. As Kugler recalls:

“The balloon popped at an altitude of around 100,000 feet, where the sky is black, starkly contrasted by the blue atmosphere of the Earth below. The balloon expanded to nearly 40 feet in diameter before bursting, and Picard, Kirk, crew and starships parachuted safely back to the Earth, touching down at around a gentle 15 MPH. We recovered the entire payload fully intact and undamaged from its landing site in a desolate cornfield near the town of Glen Avon, IL, about 300 yards off the road. “The best part? The Enterprise-D landed perfectly flat, as though Picard coordinated the landing himself. And fittingly representing Kirk’s more-aggressive, go-out-guns-blazing persona, the NCC-1701 came in nose-first. I can only imagine something Kirk might have said before landing: “OK, everyone, hold on tight. We’re going in hot!”

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The entire flight lasted two hours, and the action figures spent 90 minutes in the stratosphere. You can see the first raw footage over at io9. A fully edited final video of the historic flight should be available soon.

Discovery Channel featured the historic flight on its “Daily Planet” program (below). And Kugler is traveling to Los Angeles to present the action figures to their real-life counterparts: actors Jonathan Frakes (Riker) and Brent Spiner (Data), and producers Abrams and Orci.

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