Some of you may have noticed a Riverford veg box in the national newspapers last week. Not in an article about organic vegetables, nor in a review about our Field Kitchen restaurant, but this time as an integral part of Santa Claus’ sledge, captured on camera travelling through the stratosphere. Out of the blue, the media got hold of a project we worked on with our local primary school last December, to send one of our potatoes into space.
We commissioned the children of Landscove C of E Primary School to design a space rocket and costume for the potato, so it could be sent into the stratosphere, 20 miles above the surface of the earth. The potato was dressed as Father Christmas and housed in a two litre plastic drinks bottle, with a miniature vegbox attached to the rear. We developed primitive GPS tracking and made electronic circuits to control digital cameras that would take photos of earth. On 23rd December we launched Spudnik into the heavens with the aid of a super-high altitude helium balloon. We retrieved the craft almost four hours later just east of Basingstoke (some 230km from the launch site in Devon). You can see the amazing pictures and video from the onboard cameras on the spudnik1.co.uk website.
Perhaps even more amazing than the technical success of Spudnik is the amount of media interest it has generated. Our humble project, which cost just £400, was splashed over most of the national papers and even appeared in the Australian Daily Telegraph. Russian TV is interviewing the school this week and a Japanese broadcast company wants to feature the project in a documentary. The fame has been brilliant for the school, who have had donations of scientific instruments and micro-computers. We are overjoyed that we could make learning such fun for the children and help to make their class famous the world over. And it’s great that we can generate such good publicity by simply doing a fun little project with a school. Who needs rapping farmers?
Alex Henderson from our IT team (and the brains behind Spudnik)