HISTORY HAS BEEN MADE!
Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Captain James Tiberius Kirk have been mythically soaring throughout the galaxy for as long as the last 45 years and finally, thanks to all of you, they have gotten their first taste of the real thing and have officially made it to the final frontier!
For the last few weeks, we were working non-stop to make this space mission a reality. Countless people pulled all-nighters, myself included, and I'm happy to report: mission successful.
What We Did…
Last Saturday, from Moraine View State Park in Central Illinois, almost two dozen of us launched a giant latex Kaymont balloon into the stratosphere carrying action figures of Picard, Riker and Data aboard a model of the USS Enterprise-D, and Kirk, J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci aboard the USS Enterprise NCC-1701—the custom-made action figures of Abrams and Orci were hand-sculpted by Be A Doll. Also aboard were 6 HD video cameras, a 3D camera, an assortment of tracking systems (including a HAM tracker and SPOT Personal Locator Beacon), and 33 Star Trek communicator buttons. It was all connected to an 8 foot long superstructure that was made mostly of aluminum and weighed almost 12 lbs. fully loaded. This was easily one of the most elaborate amateur, high-altitude balloon missions ever.
During the two hour flight, the Star Trek captains spent nearly 90 minutes in the stratosphere where temperatures (-76 F) and air pressures (1% sea level) are akin to those on Mars. At the flight's peak, it was above 99% of the Earth's atmosphere and the Starfleet captains were the second highest "people" in the world, behind only the astronauts on the International Space Station.
The balloon popped at an altitude of around 100,000 feet after expanding to nearly 40 feet in diameter and Picard, Kirk, crew and starships parachuted safely back to the Earth, touching down at around a gentle 15MPH. The entire payload was completely recovered fully intact undamaged from its landing site in a desolate corn field near the town of Glen Avon, IL. 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 he might of said before landing: "OK, everyone, hold on tight. We're going in hot!"
We got extremely lucky with weather. It was supposed to rain and be overcast, but instead it was clear skies and sunshine. Blisteringly hot, but with clear skies it was hard to complain. We also got very lucky with a calm jet stream. Normally, the lateral drift for high-altitude balloons requires driving over 100 miles for recovery. Not so on this day; we only drove 25.
Picard and Kirk still have about 20,000 more lightyears to go, but this is a start. It wouldn't surprise me if a few hundred years from now, there are actually captains named Picard and Kirk sailing throughout the galaxy on *real* starships. Because, afterall, reality is what we make it. Had it not been for Gene Roddenberry's creation of Star Trek and him naming the series' flag starship "Enterprise," it's doubtful NASA would have called one of their Space Shuttles "Enterprise." Imagination is at the foundation of all future reality. Considering that, it's not so crazy to think that the world we see in Star Trek may some day soon become a reality.
In the famous words of Captain Picard, "Make it so."
The Discovery Channel…
Remember that television channel I told you in an earlier update that was sending a film crew out to the launch? Well, a film crew from Discovery Channel Canada was out with us the entire day from 8:30am to 6:30pm. They captured a ton of great footage and I'm told a short episode featuring Picard and Kirk's flight is going to air on national television sometime late next week. Look for it!
If you live in Canada, keep an eye out for the episode featuring this launch on Discovery Channel's TV show "Daily Planet." And if you don't live in Canada, we'll post an update with a link to the episode as soon as it airs.
What's an official launch without official t-shirts? Take a look at who's mentioned first on the back of all the shirts, which were in front of the Discovery Channel cameras all day long! ;) Ah hem: "Our Kickstarter Backers!"
Captain Picard and Captain Kirk are the greatest starship captains to ever exist, but they never before made it to space in reality, and that's why you pitched in to help send them there. Every step we make closer to the vision depicted in Star Trek, in a sense, we bring that fictional world into reality. This may have been an incredibly small and insignificant step towards that, but it's a thrust in that direction nonetheless.
And all of this is thanks to you Kickstarter backers! You guys and gals totally rock!
We also had some others who helped make this possible and we want to thank those supporters for their amazing help!
● THANK YOU SanDisk! They provided us with a full supply of the Extreme HD Video 32GB memory cards we needed to record the entire flight.
● THANK YOU Be A Doll! They hand sculpted the custom-made action figures of J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci (the director and co-writer of 2009 Star Trek and the upcoming sequel) that flew with Kirk.
● THANK YOU Melissa Ventura! She designed our fantastic logo.
● THANK YOU Max Schlickenmeyer! He's our DP who was shooting video on launch day and will be putting together the final video for all of you.
● THANK YOU Tellman Knudson! He helped out in a big way with some much needed logistical support.
Finally, I really want to thank Spencer Gore and his team at Space for All for providing all of the engineering genius behind this mission!
And to express just how much I appreciate you Kickstarters, I shot this short video out on launch day just minutes before we sent Picard and Kirk into space:
● Max Schlickenmeyer is hard at work editing the final video that will eternally capture Picard and Kirk's historic flight. With more than 250GB worth of video from over half a dozen cameras to sort through, it could take a couple of weeks but you can bet it's going to be spectacular once he's done. As soon as it's ready to go, I'll post a link. Max is responsible for the three-million-hit YouTube video called "The Most Astounding Fact" with voiceover by Neil deGrasse Tyson. If you haven't seen it yet, you should watch it right now. I heard that Neil is even referencing this video in his speeches now. I highly recommend it.
● Soon I'll be taking a trip to LA to hand deliver the action figures that flew to the edge of space to their real-life counterparts. I'll meet with Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Brent Spiner (Data), J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci to hand over their freshly space-inducted action figures.
● Get our final video aired at Comic-Con and Star Trek Las Vegas.
Below is only the coverage we know about so far. There was more, but we don't have copies of it. We know this space mission was mentioned on CNN Headline News, as well as extensively covered on Chicago radio stations.
Space - "For the first time ever, TV's beloved "Star Trek" captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard will go boldy into near-space for real —in action figure form."
io9 - "We love videos of people sending various objects into space via high-altitude balloons, and this one is especially fun."
MSNBC - "Star Trek dolls will boldly go on near-space mission"
TrekMovie - "Meet Logan Kugler, a space enthusiast/trekkie with one simple goal: to send Captains Picard and Kirk into near-space — well, their action figures at least!"
Bleeding Cool - "…Strapped to models of their respective Starship Enterprises [Picard and Kirk will be launched] into space using a high-altitude balloon and is being filmed by the Discovery Channel to boot."
LiveScience - "A group of Trekkies has banded together to launch dolls of the two starship captains, as well as other key Trek characters and models of Star Trek spacecraft, to the edge of space using a high-altitude balloon."
The Mary Sue - "Captain Kirk and Captain Picard have shared screen-time before in the beloved Star Trek franchise but now they’ll travel to space together in real life."
Action Figure Insider - "A team of more than a dozen individuals, backed by over 100 donors on Kickstarter, will launch models of the iconic science fiction characters standing atop their respective starships into near space…"
The Beat - "…The Star Trek nerd in me could NOT help myself [from posting about this]."
SpaceRef - "Two starship captains, 6 action figures, 2 starships,  cameras, and a launch crew of more than a dozen will send Captain Picard and Captain Kirk to the edge-of-space and return them safely to the Earth."
Fanboy - "This very cool project on Kickstarter [offers]… your chance to send Captain Picard AND Captain Kirk into outer space."
WBBM Chicago Newsradio (radio) - John Cody reports