VIDEO: Bristol fundraisers send lego man into space
A BRISTOL rowing club came up with a novel way to raise money – they sent a man into space.
But although the "rower" was recreating the recent record space jump by daredevil Felix Baumgartner – from 120,000ft – he was unharmed, thanks to being made of Lego.
Three engineers from the city came up with the idea of the unusual stunt to raise funds to help build a new clubhouse as the City of Bristol Rowing Club.
Dave Curtis, a member of the City Of Bristol Rowing Club, and his friends Chris Driscoll, who works at Airbus, and Drew Graham, who works for Westland Helicopters, decided to send "Alan" the Lego man into space, dressed in Bristol Rowing green colours.
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Mr Curtis, 29, who also works at Airbus, heard the club, based at the Harbourside, was looking for ideas to raise money for a new clubhouse.
He said: "We named the Lego man Alan because he looked like Alan Campbell who won bronze single sculling at the Olympics.
"Single scullers, who use two oars rather than a single oar, are out there on their own, pushing themselves to the limit, which is much like our Lego man who single-handedly rowed 37km into space."
The team filled a weather balloon with helium, and attached Alan and a large parachute, as well as a polystyrene box containing photographic equipment and GPS trackers.
After getting permission from the Civil Aviation Authority, the balloon was let go in Tewkesbury where it started its journey upwards into the unknown. It rose to 120,000 feet – the same height reached by Felix Baumgartner in his space jump – where the temperature dropped to a chilly -50C.
At this height the balloon became three times as big as when it was launched, before it burst and began its free fall back to Earth with little air resistance to slow it.
When the air became thicker the parachute then deployed and three hours later Alan was back on solid ground landing in Banbury, in rural Oxfordshire.
The project took the group three months to plan – they had wanted to send something into space after watching TV presenter James May perform a similar stunt.
Three simulations were run before the launch, which assessed the weather and predicted roughly where the balloon would land.
Mr Curtis, who lives in Redland, said: "Choosing the right weather conditions was crucial – a simulation run only a week before showed it was expected to land in Norway!"
"The images recovered from the two cameras attached to Alan were far better than we could have ever imagined – seeing the curvature of the Earth blew my mind and made it all worthwhile."
To donate money to the new clubhouse visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SpaceRower.