Action Man is set to go into space.
Chris Hillcox, contacted me out of the blue and basically opened with "I want to put an Action Man into space for his 50th anniversary year, and I know how to do it".
He asked if I could help publicise it. My answer was a resounding 'Yes! - Let's do this in style'.
And so this project started.
Chris has been a life long fan of Action Man and has always tried to push him to his limits. As a boy he would throw Action Man, complete with parachute kit, out of his bedroom window in a bid to give him real adventures. Now Chris, at the ripe old age of 43, is looking to combine his semi profession of near space photography with this ongoing desire to put the A back into Action Man. Chris is now a veteran of many missions into near space to capture footage for clients and is also an expert in tracking equipment and preparation for space projects.
I got my first Action Man in 1970 when I was five and it's only in the last few years that I have rediscovered the creativity for adventure that he still brings to our leisure time. I am a professional designer and photographer / videographer and self-confessed Action Man / GI Joe nut and run a couple of notable Action Man tribute sites.
But this is not about self promotion.
"This is a mission for every boy that had an Action Man or GI Joe and dreamed of his Astronaut going into real-life space. For every 40 to 50 year-old that remembers that indescribable bond with his Action Man - digging trenches between dad's roses, submerging the deep sea diver in the sea on holiday, throwing the Red Devil Parachutist so high that we squealed with delight".
In childhood imagination is at it's peak - everything seems possible. This mission embodies that feeling of daring to dream, and again it's Action Man inspiring the possible. This mission is set to bring back those happy days of wonder and excitement.
A word from Bob Brechin
"As the former Palitoy Chief Designer and lead designer for Action Man from 1967 through to 1984 I am thrilled that we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of a toy that has become such a legend and a truly British phenomenon even though it began as a clone of GI Joe, a similarly iconic American phenomenon.
Since 1984, when General Mills decided to finish with Action Man to pursue its agenda of marketing only US developed toys in Europe and I and my design colleagues were made redundant, I have been very pleasantly surprised at the growth of Action Man collecting and the enthusiasm and total commitment of those in the "hobby". This commitment and the obvious love the collectors have for a toy that was a big part of my life, makes me want to support the forums as much as I can, and be available to meet and answer any questions from the enthusiasts at toy meets throughout the year.
This "special" year I am excited to be part of the mission to send Action Man into space. I have been invited to attend the event in June and I am so pleased that this will happen within a stone's throw of the old Palitoy factory in Coalville. This will be good for the town which has had a bad time recently with the closure by the Leicestershire County Council of Snibston Discovery Museum where many of Palitoy toys including Action Man were on display. It was my hope once, before the closure, that the real story of Action Man and Palitoy could be told in a meaningful way at the museum. The former Friends of Snibston still have intentions of creating a "heritage centre" where, next to other local heritage, this story can be told and Action Man and other Palitoy toys be seen.
The mission to send Action Man into space, and the local, regional and national publicity that it will generate which should help to put Coalville on the map, will continue the legend that is ACTION MAN. My best wishes go to Chris and Rob who are endeavouring to make this happen".
In June 2016, the plan is to launch the original vintage Action Man into space - just a couple of hundred yards away from his spiritual home - Owen Street Coalville, in Leicestershire, 50 years after his birth. What a birthday present for Action Man. He will swiftly be lifted through airspace to the edge of space by high altitude helium balloon.
In doing so, Action Man will be exposed to temperatures of minus 50 as he makes his way to the Earth’s Stratosphere. From his peak altitude of approximately 100,000ft he will have an unrestricted view of both British coastlines for the first time in history. And the real pleasure is we will all play a key role in making this dream mission come to fruition.
Rewards for Mission Backers
For our MISSION BACKERS we are producing a range of 4 rewards groups - Bronze, Silver, Gold and Capsule Sponsor - from as little as £10.
All levels of Mission Backers will get a Commemorative Limited Edition (max 500) gold metal dog tag that will have been into space on the mission (and back) and a private link to a short film detailing the mission! The Dog Tags are Action Man sized so you can place it on your Action Man and comes with a letter of authenticity.
Top levels (Mission and Capsule) of backing gets an invite to be in the launch party in Coalville to see Bob Brechin, Chief Designer at Palitoy cut the tape and launch the capsule into space. Also on offer is a limited (to 5) edition of a contemporary British Astronaut Action Man that has been made solely to commerorate this mission, in a specially commissioned spacesuit in the style of that worn by Great Britain's Major Tim Peake for his current International Space Station mission. These will be hand-made and numbered from 01 for an original painted head figure, through to 05 for a new 50th anniversary figure, with the assistance of a talented British clothes and accessory designer using a variety of materials and sympathetic to the early Palitoy tradition of outfit manufacture and detailing.
A post-mission short film will be created with all footage and a few extras, and ALL BACKERS will get a special link to see the full length film and Silver and Gold level backers will see their names on the rolling credits.
There will be actual size woven mission patches designed too, and who can possibly resist the Action Man / GI Joe style dog tags in Gold metal for ALL Action Man or GI Joe action figures to proudly wear post mission?
For those individuals that might wish to promote their company, club or forum there are 10 locations on the capsule for a logo or message or sponsor the complete mission and mission name! Local media will be given launch details and a press release.
Funding Mercury 10
It also seems fitting to organise this proud mission right now. The fact that there is already an intrepid British Astronaut in the form of Major Tim Peake flying the Union Jack in space as I write, and who can forget the irrepressible Sir Richard Branson on the verge of Virgin Galactic's finest hour. Let's make it a hat-trick of British space adventurers pushing the limits.
Only apathy can stop us now!
So are you in? Let's take your hero to the limits, on behalf of every last surviving Action Man out there - whether he's standing shoulder to shoulder in a collection in a glass cabinet, or still laying on his own - yet to be discovered in a dusty loft.
One day in June will be theirs.
Mercury 10 is the chosen mission name, following on from the nine NASA Mercury missions during period of 1958 - 1963* from whose plans the design of the vintage Action Man Space Capsule was penned. The missions were vital ground breaking missions - preparing the Way for Apollo 11 to put Man on the moon. Each of the Mercury capsules were named by the "Mercury Seven' Astronauts - names such as 'Faith 7', and 'Aurora 7' . We have fittingly chosen 'Jubilee 7' to commemorate the Golden Jubilee 50th year of Action Man's Launch in the UK. The first Briton into space was Dr Helen Patricia Sharman OBE FRSC (born 30 May 1963) a British chemist and the first woman to visit the Mir space station in 1991. With Action Man in Space in June one could argue that in fact it's the first time two Brits were in space at the same time!
Risks and challenges
The weather conditions will play their part in the great day. Atmospheric and weather conditions in June are usually ideal for a launch.
Near space is pretty inhospitable. The camera optics have to be the very best quality and equipment has to withstand vast changes in velocity and extremes in temperature. Action Man will be exposed to temperatures of minus 50 as he makes his way to the Earth’s Stratosphere. A parachute rig has to be designed and developed to help Action Man and his capsule back down to earth.
There will be video recording equipment and advanced tracking equipment on board to film the 2 and a half hour mission to 100,000ft and assist it's recovery - that could be up to 60 miles from the launch site.
The capsule will also be wired to allow radio hams to access LIVE scanned images.
There is always a remote possibility of the capsule landing in a body of water or being otherwise unrecoverable. In this instance we would still have the recorded flight stats and build up and launch footage. The film will still be made as intended and rewards still remanufactured and distributed as they mark the commemoration of Action Man's 50th and the Record Attempt.
An application to The Civil Aviation Authority for permission to fly in and through airspace is all part of the process of completing the mission safely. During the period of launch the CAA will issue a NOTAM notice to airmen of the impending launch of Action man. It is up to pilots in the area to avoid the launch and give them a chance to get in touch with me to get more details on the launch!
The Mission Backer's rewards are all being designed in the UK (if possible), to keep this a high quality very British Mission from start to finish.
There are challenges, after all this is a new frontier, but we have more than enough experience and technology to make this a memorable flight for our hero.
In the words of another intrepid space explorer let's "Make it so."Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (37 days)