"We've seen stuff hit space before," says Casey Chan at Gizmodo, "but nothing has been as touching and aww-inducing" as one father's mission to send his son's favorite toy train into space. Ron Fugelseth, a California video producer, attached Stanley the train — one of Thomas the Tank Engine's pals — to a weather balloon outfitted with a video camera and GPS-enabled cellphone, and sent Stanley into the stratosphere. (Watch the video below.) Stanley isn't the first toy to make the trip to space, though. Here, a retrospective of the ambitious galactic voyages of one boy's train and four other children's playthings:
1. Stanley's space shot
Fugelseth has video post-production skills, so he was able to animate Stanley's face during his journey, "to bring him to life how I imagine my son sees him," he explains. After a suspenseful 18-mile trip up and — after the balloon pops — down, Stanley landed in a corn field 27 miles away, and "the pure joy on the 4-year-old's face [when he reunites with his toy] is unadulterated awesomeness," says Gizmodo's Chan:
2. Edgar the toy robot
Videographer James Trosh sent Edgar 18 miles into the stratosphere for a music video, using a weather balloon tied to a styrofoam box sporting a video camera, GPS system, and a cellphone. After the video — "Edgar" by Lucky Elephant — was finished, Trosh posted Edgar's entire journey to the web:
3. Lego space shuttle
Fans of the space shuttle have reacted in different ways to the grounding of the iconic U.S. space fleet. Romanian national Raul Oaida decided to keep the shuttle dream alive, "albeit in toy form," he explains. From central Germany, Oaida sent a Lego shuttle nearly 22 miles into the air, then tracked down the landed orbiter 150 miles away via GPS:
4. Lego space man
Lego men get around. A giant Lego man has floated ashore in Britain, the Netherlands, and Florida, so Toronto teenagers Matthew Ho and Asad Muhammad took the next logical step and launched Lego man into space — with a Canadian flag. "There are people that are doing it, but I haven't seen many examples of 17-year-old kids doing it," says an impressed University of Toronto astrophysicist Michael Reid:
5. NASA's official rubber space chicken
The mascot of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory at Stanford is Camilla the rubber chicken and — with more than 20,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ — she may be the most popular toy to have entered near-orbit. But it wasn't NASA that sent Camilla into space — twice — but rather a group of high school students in Bishop, Calif. As part of an astrobiology project, the students sent Camilla out above the atmosphere in March 2012 to measure radiation from a particularly strong solar storm. "This was a reconnaissance flight," said Rachel Molina, 17:
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