Toronto teens add new chapter to Canadian space program


Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad may just be the first people to launch a Lego man into the stratosphere.

There’s no question about it – the desire to explore is hard-wired into human DNA and ever since we evolved the ability to adapt to new environments, as a species we’ve been on a non-stop voyage.

But exploration isn’t always easy. Depending on where you want to go, you could be faced with technical, cultural, political and financial hurdles – some of which may prove to be impossible to overcome.

Just don’t tell that to Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, two 17-year-olds from Toronto’s Agincourt Collegiate Institute. Ho and Muhammad just proved that with the right combination of drive and ingenuity, even the exploration of space is within reach and you don’t have to call up NASA (or perhaps more fittingly, the Russian Federal Space Agency) to make it happen.

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Earlier this month, the two budding explorers sent a home-made, unmanned module up to the very edges of our atmosphere via a weather balloon and recorded their journey on 4 separate cameras. Actually, that’s not perfectly accurate. The module may have been unmanned, but it wasn’t without a passenger.

Muhammad and Ho decided that at least one space tourist deserved to be on-board for their historic first flight and the honour fell, quite fittingly, to a brave Lego man who the teens super-glued to their module. The poor plastic fellow likely received little in the way of a mission briefing, but he was equipped with a Canadian flag. We can only guess that this was sufficient compensation for the tiny astronaut since, as the photos and video clearly show, the smile never left his face.

According to an interview the pair gave to The Toronto Star, the whole endeavour took 4 months of planning and cost $400. It wasn’t an attempt to score extra marks in their science class:  “They just thought it would be cool.”

The flight itself lasted 97 minutes and reached an approximate altitude of 24 km. While not quite the arena of space shuttles and satellites, that distance puts the module well into the official stratosphere which starts at 20 km from sea level, and it was more than high enough for the captured imagery to show the curvature of the Earth in the background.

In case you’re wondering, Muhammad has plans to become an aircraft technician while Ho is looking to become an entrepreneur. My advice to the young explorers: stay in touch. In a few more years you might be the most exciting thing to happen to space since Richard Branson and Burt Rutan put their collective talents together to create the space tourism outfit that is Virgin Galactic.

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61 comments

  1. Rob Williamson

    Nice story, but CTV is being deceptive, or they don’t have their facts straight.
    80,000 feet is a bit over 15 miles altitude. A little over 24 kilometers up.

    The generally accepted height to be considered as “reaching space” is FOUR TIMES that height… 100 kilometers, 62 miles,

    So they made it 1/4 the distance needed to be considered “space”.

    Why do they need to exaggerate so much? ?

    To claim they reached “space” is being less then truthful…

    But why am I not surprised ? ?

    Like

    • KK

      Hmm. Read carefully, Rob…and then reserve your opinions for those situations where they are not so easily proven spurious.

      Like

    • Amee Grande

      Nice point :) Do you think they could be doing this to attract more attention to the story? As a matter of fact, I only clicked the story link because of the interesting, yet deceptive title.

      Its’ still pretty cool though! ;) That’ll show NASA! :P

      Like

      • Rob Williamson

        Old enough to have already been driving for some time. Old enough to join the army.
        Old enough to handle the truth and facts…

        Old enough to learn not to lie if it is them making the claim that they made it to space… Especially the people at CTV. Those people are old enough not to deceive the public that reads the news.

        Like

      • steve

        Hey Doofus. nobody said they made it into space , just up to the stratosphere. learn to read . must be a drag to be so bitter about things you have to belittle everthing others do.

        Like

    • Ryan Pawluk

      Actually, it doesn’t say they reached space, just the stratosphere which is a legitimate description of where they were.

      Maybe just enjoy the story for what it is.

      Like

    • Shanks

      They ALWAYS post deceitful headlines, they do it to attract readers, it’s at the point I’m about to change my homepage to something else just so I can get a little truth in my news.

      Like

    • Frans von der Dunk

      You’re absolutely right, Rob: nobody knowledgeable on the subject would dare to claim 24 km to be ‘outer space’. Effectively, not even the incumbent space tourism operators – Virgin Galactic and Space Expedition Curacao – claim this; they, too, aim for 100 km and above, selling that to their prospective passengers as ‘being in outer space’. And there is a considerable, and growing wealth of proper legal argument for that too – too long to digress on there; those interested should come and visit our unique Space, cyber and telecommunications law program (sorry for the ad :-))
      Frans

      Like

  2. simone

    This is something. My son who a huge Lego fan was thrilled to see this had happened. I don’t care if it went right in to space or not but because it went up on a rocket made my son’s day. Way to go….

    Like

  3. darrell white

    typical comments from canadians above. cant just be happy for the guys. have to somehow tear it down. always happy being second best. welcome to canada.

    Like

  4. axiom

    Wow! That’s simply amazing!

    Other countries like India, China, Russia, and the ESA have rockets to get to space. Canada? We use a weather balloon to get there… Well, almost there.

    We should be so proud with this global headline.

    Like

  5. WillMilano

    Well it say there they made 24km/80,000ft….whats the issue? and sir if YOU consider measurements only to what you “consider”, maybe your wrong.
    Regardless, I bet you never did something that cool an innovative at 17.
    For Denis, nobody accept its inhabitants know what Newmarket is. Therefore Toronto is more suitable. If you were to honestly post Newmarket we’d be thinking of some town in N.UK.

    Congrats to these young Canadians!

    Like

  6. Bob Neely

    In regards to Mr Rob Williamson. Maybe because you did’nt or were not capable of doing something like this yourself, ( don’t be jealous !)By tearing these kids up with a negative attitude sure shows your a loser. Your info that you posted, anyone can get that from google you loser.Be careful what you post because you are far from perfect yourself!

    Like

    • theflyunit

      Mr Rob W. was merely saying the corporate news agency is once again distorting the truth. He, I am sure, is impressed with the feat the boys achieved but obviously not impressed with the slightly misleading headline. Don’t lose sight of his point and fall into line like all the other lemmings….your lack of understanding his point really makes you look like a bigger looser….hahaha

      Like

  7. Rob Williamson

    Okay “Rick” and “Playloud” Let’s give them and break and tell everyone who sees the story that they “Sent it to space” even though they didn’t get anywhere near space.

    So what if we lie to the thousands of people that might see it ? ? Who cares, right ? ? As long as we can soothe the feelings of two seventeen year old teenagers and make them feel better. Who cares about facts and truth? Do they get get told real facts in school?
    Here’s a Fact. Any kid old enough to have the responsibility to drive a vehicle and join the army, is old enough to handle the fact that they didn’t really get anywhere near space. These aren’t 8 year old kids whos feelings are so delicate.
    I’m going on a trip to England in April…. I think when I come back I’ll tell people I did a complete round the world trip, and visited many other countries as well. It’ll make me feel better to say that I did, even if I am lying.
    Society these days…. ignore facts and truth to teens, lie to them… one of our major problems.

    Like

  8. Bill J.

    It may not have technically made it into space, But I’m impressed. Just look at that picture, looks like space to me! Very cool indeed!

    Like

  9. Rob Williamson

    In regards to Mr. Bob Neely. Maybe you were raised in an environment were it was permissible to be less than honest. Facts are not important. Never cared about facts.
    Perhaps you don’t think 17 year old’s are mature enough to hand facts. You really think that badly about them ?
    The fact that you don’t mind telling lies sure shows that you are the loser.
    Tell us please.. how is being factual “…tearing up these kids…”? ? I think they are old enough to handle the facts and truth without having their feelings hurt. Responsible enough to drive, but not handle facts…is that what you think ?

    You wish to reinforce in them the attitude that lieing is okay? What kind of person are you ? Is that what your parents taught you ?
    You really don’t think they are mature enough to handle facts do you. Why do you think so lowly of them? Why do you think they are so immature mentally?
    You are the loser.
    I think they are big enough to handle the facts.

    Like

  10. Dave Mitchell

    Rob,
    First of all I suggest you re-read the article! It says “the outer reaches of Earth’s atmosphere”, “the upper reaches of the atmosphere”, “the very edges of our atmosphere” and “well into the official stratosphere” so the written article was entirely truthful.

    Second I agree that in the video the news anchor does speak about “Lego man into space” and the Article Title about “adding a new chapter to the Canadian space program” is also not entirely accurate either, but really, to the average person this gives it some perspective. Most people don’t even know the earth has a stratosphere. This flight was twice as high as any passenger flight would go, 6 kilometres higher than the Concorde flew and definitely above the troposphere.

    Further, other than you, who cares! What these two young men did is a marvellous achievement, (especially with a budget of$400)This something you probably could not achieve yourself, and if you had had any influence on these young people with such a negative attitude, may have discouraged or even deterred them from attaining this goal. Why the negativity? It only serves to take away from the accomplishment in an attempt to focus on your own (exaggerated?) intellect.

    Finally to your comments about where space begins, in 2009 The University of Calgary determined that the edge of space actually begins at 118 km, the Karmin line is as you note at 100km above sea level, However the German V2 rocket is said to be the first Man-made object to reach space on October 3rd 1942 at an altitude of 97 km. Again, who cares.( look at me, I can Google too!)

    Great job boys! Great to see this from Canada! (who cares where beyond that)

    Like

    • Rob williamson

      Dave: Go back to the TV news report… they claim they sent it to space. Perhaps you over looked it. Headline:

      “” Toronto teens launch Lego man into space”
      ctvtoronto.ca

      Date: Wednesday Jan. 25, 2012 11:24 AM ET

      A challenge usually left to NASA eggheads or PhD students was conquered by two Toronto teenagers earlier this month when Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad sent a Lego-manned flight capsule into space.””
      http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20120125/toronto-lego-man-space-120125/20120125/?hub=TorontoNewHome

      The fact remains. It never happened. They sent a weather balloon up to where the U-2 and XR-71 Blackbird can fly. Good for them. Congratulations on doing something cool.
      But don’t call it going to space. It ain’t space….. except in your dreams, and in lies.

      It would be like me traveling east to Newfoundland and claiming I made it all the way to England. It wouldn’t be true.

      By the way mr. Google man.. I didn’t have to google it, I’ve been an amateur astronomer for the past 45 years.

      If you are worried about their sensibilities and self esteem being hurt,… they better get used to it. When they reach the business world… they will be in for a shock if people keep on telling them all through school, that they did much better than they actually did. Better for them at 17 years of age to be prepared to deal with reality. I’ve had to argue with teachers in the past that want to push kids on to the next grade when they aren’t ready for it… many teachers don’t want to hurt the kid’s feelings by giving them a failing grade, (The kid ends up finding the next grade even MORE difficult… because he can’t handle even the previous grade… actually not fair to the kid to be pushed forward.)

      Like

      • Lynda F.

        Rob – you are a cranky old man. They didn’t do it for science, they did it because they thought it would be cool. The story is not about how they sent a rocket into “space” but rather that they sent Lego Man up for a ride. Would you rather our teens not be so inventive and be out in the street doing crack and vandalism? Go back to your rocking chair and the CBC.

        Like

      • Rob

        Lynda F. Now you’re being deceptive as well. As you can see, not just from my own post but from others, the articles that sent us to this page made a claim well beyond “…sent Lego Man up for a ride.”

        Quote:
        Toronto teens launch Lego man into space”
        ctvtoronto.ca

        Date: Wednesday Jan. 25, 2012 11:24 AM ET

        A challenge usually left to NASA eggheads or PhD students was conquered by two Toronto teenagers earlier this month when Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad sent a Lego-manned flight capsule into space.””

        http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20120125/toronto-lego-man-space-120125/20120125/?hub=TorontoNewHome

        You have to reach at least 100 km…62 miles.. to be considered space. They made it 25% of the way…. good for them… but far from “space”
        Hey… I flew east to New Foundland. Maybe I should tell people I made it all the way to England.

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      • Rob

        So “Somerita” considers 24km to be outer space too. Perhaps she has made some amazing discovery. Better tell NASA and all the world’s scientists… Because they claim that you have to reach at least 100 km…. 62 miles up… to be considered space.
        “Somerita” why don’t you announce your discovery and get published ? ? … perhaps you will win a Nobel.

        Like

  11. Scott Walls

    Thank you Bob Neely people like Rob W always have to be negative when they are, like you said losers. People like him should shut the opening below his nose. Thanks again Bob

    Like

    • Rob

      Something wrong with facts? Fact is… they didn’t reach space. All the world’s scientists and NASA say that you have to reach an altitude of at least 100 km…. 62 miles.. to be considered space.
      These kids made it only 25% of the way. Good for them. Amazing accomplishment.
      BUT THEY WERE FAR FROM REACHING SPACE ! !

      Do you wish to set a new altitude to be considered space ? ? 24 km ? Better get in touch with NASA and see if they will agree.

      Like

  12. mojo300

    Rick, Playloud, Bob Neely and Tom Chan, you’ve all missed the point. What these kids did is great and no one is tearing them down. Get a grip will you?

    Rob makes a perfectly good point, why do CTV and so many other “news organizations” exaggerate and sensationalize their stories? Why can’t they do more reporting and less entertaining. Why do they cater to feeble-minded people who can’t understand real news and instead give us simplistic stories? Our democracy suffers because of it. Stick to the facts please.

    Like

    • Hooligan

      Totally agree!
      it must be the competition for web hits and juicing up stories that really don’t need to be. But Sympatico.ca is just as bad with misleading headlines and facts.
      eg. cash cab host hit pedestrian, including a picture of the shows host on the story. It was a producer shuttling the van to storage!
      Is mainstream media run by tabloid editors now?

      Like

  13. nicholas

    Well lets just forget about if they made it into space or not the important thing here is that LegoMAN SURVIIIIVED!!!

    Like

    • calico

      Practically a miracle if you take into account that the typically hard-hat style “Lego hair” is mysteriously absent? Or did it burn away while the Lego man traversed – as so many are so quick to point out – the first 1/4 of the journey to “space”?

      I challenge you complainers of “sensationalism” to journey that distance with nothing but a weather balloon keeping you going. Pick your battles. Take your war on sensationalism to a battlefield where the deceptions of modern news agents are truly newsworthy. Seriously, you’re complaining about what is considered accurate space distance from Earth? There are people on this planet that can’t fathom being more than 50 miles from their home, let alone compute the idea of 1000s of miles into the atmosphere. Let it go…

      Let the LegoMan have his day (in — as-close-as-most-of-us-are-ever-going-to-get — space)!

      Like

  14. Snark

    This is a fine accomplishment by a pair of young men. High altitude flight is a fascinating place. Good for them and I hope that they try for more next time.

    Their experiment did not however “go into space” – very far from it. Some aircraft even operate at this altitude. This is also not a first: launching personal electronics on weather balloons has become something of a fad the past few years – with others attaining much higher altitudes.

    The media took a fine story and embellished it to the point where people start questioning the actual noteworthiness of the accomplishment. Not surprising though: most in the media don’t really know much about anything – science and engineering especially. After all, math is hard.

    Like

  15. Bob Neely

    I am very sorry Mr Rob Williamson, on my knees I would like to apoligise to you. Your comments were 100% correct, I was drunk and didn’t know how to act and feel ashamed, as should the kids and CTV for the lie.

    Like

    • Rob

      No …it is me who should apologise. I should just be willing to ignore facts and truth… and claim that they went into space too.
      Who care if it is not true.

      So what if they only made it 25% of the way there ? ?

      Right ? ? We would not want to hurt these teenagers tender delicate feeling with truth and facts now would we ? ?
      Hey.. why not make them feel even better and say they almost made it into orbit…. :)

      You know, my cousin only got 25 % in his math course. I guess we should pat him on the back, congratulate him, celebrate his accomplishment as if he got 100%. There we go :)

      Like

      • Blair

        Honestly, Rob, I can’t believe you’ve still got your knickers in a knot about this 6 months later.

        Even more, though, I don’t understand why you’re being so hard on the teenagers when the real problem seems to be with the headline writers. I just went to the ctv link you posted, and the teens said that their objective was to send the baloon & payload out of the earth’s atmosphere. Yes, you could argue that the balloon was still in the “upper atmosphere”, but at 20km it did, in fact, enter the stratosphere.

        The closest I see them talking about space in the text is when they said that they captured photos from “near space”, which starts 20km out. So they weren’t inaccurate there.

        Now, go get a life.

        Like

  16. kyle

    really? they’re only kids and to send a lego man that high up on a 400 dollar budget is remarkable. at least give them that much credit. i doubt anyone of us could have thought on the same thing or accomplished it! so relax, its news. its entertaining and they got some great footage. go read a newspaper if you want news.

    Like

  17. axiom

    Wow! This is truly simply amazing!

    While other countries such as India, China, Russia, and the ESA all have rockets to get into space. What does Canada use? A weather balloon to get there… Well, not all the way there.

    We should be all so very proud that this is making global headlines.

    Like

  18. Peter

    Muhammad,

    Think twice before you consider taking aircraft maintenance engineer as you career. The job is interesting but shift work, work environment, pay, job opportunity, job security, etc., are not rosy.

    Peter

    Like

  19. Jimmysurfs

    That’s pretty cool! I think I wanted to do something like that when I was 17 too. That was before Lego was around, so I probably would have sent up a little army guy instead .

    Like

  20. Blue Lawyer

    Yeah great it all fun and games until the balloon and the other crap get sucked into a jet engine and damage it or worse. Besides what was so tough about this? They attached a plastic man and a camera to a balloon and let it go? Sorry not getting the difficulty here??

    Like

    • Hooligan

      Actually, engineers have stated that a jet engine can withstand a human body through its turbines without harm, so a weather balloon would be like confetti through a fan.
      There is nothing illegal about what these boys, or launches before them did. Other story sources included that they checked all safety requirements. Also, none of the agencies or professors contacted about the feat mention anything unsafe about the launch. They only applauded the effort, unlike your dimunitive attitude.
      Your undermining of the accomplishment and the preparation reflects your “greater than thou” complex and total lack of appreciation of what others succeed at.

      Like

      • Rob williamson

        A human body though a jet engine without harm? I guess you missed US Airways Flight 1549, a twin engine Airbus A320 that lost both engines after flying into a flock of birds shortly after take-off and ended up landing in the Hudson River. January 15, 2009.

        Or how about ThomsonFly 757, April 29, 2007, one bird sucked into an engine on takeoff, lost the engine, had to return and do an emergency landing. It was caught on video and you can watch it on Youtube.
        On September 22, 1995, a U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft (Callsign Yukla 27, serial number 77-0354), crashed shortly after take off from Elmendorf AFB. The plane lost power to both port side engines after these engines ingested several Canada Geese during takeoff. The aircraft crashed about two miles (3 km) from the runway, killing all 24 crew members on board.
        Birds sucked into jet engines.,, not good,,, Human body sucked into a jet engine ? ? You’re kidding.

        Like

  21. Bob Neely

    Mojo300, I think you have missed the point here. They are a couple of teens who tried something that we didn’t. What Bob williamson states anyone can get it from google! So you get a grip and realize the point. We all know the News exagerates but thats ok. So pull your head out of Bobs Ass and get a grip!!! Get a life!

    Like

  22. Richard

    Mathew & Mohammad—I agree with you guys, it was COOL to do. Beats what myself and some my friends used to do 40 years ago (then age 15-17). We thought it was fun tying notes onto or inserting them into balloons with our name and phone numbers and asking people to call us if you had found one of them. We just wanted to track how far they had gotten, unfortunately we never did receive a call. So have fun with it and tell all the morons with the negative responses to go inhale some Helium and try to remember how funny their words would have sounded then!

    Like

  23. randy

    I don’t think most of you get what Rob is trying to say. He is not tearing down the kids at all! He is tearing down the reporters for giving false accusations about this story. look through the comments.

    Like

  24. Tim

    So, this is a feel good story and the sour pusses come out. What did you do for your high school projects that is news worthy.These kids deserve the plaudits.Go beat your dog or something.

    Like

  25. Pingback: Photo gallery: Awesome Lego men scenes | Sync™ Blog
    • Rob

      Who’s the idiot? “jesse” is the idiot.

      Are you claiming that they made it to space also ? ? Like the original article ? ?

      http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20120125/toronto-lego-man-space-120125/20120125/?hub=TorontoNewHome

      They only made it to 80,000 feet. Some planes operate at that altitude. They ain’t in space Bozo.

      To reach space, according to NASA and scientist all over the world you have to make it to at least 100 km…. 62 miles.
      The kids made it 25% of the way. Wonderful. But it ain’t space moron.

      My cousin got 25 % in his math course. I suppose we should pat him on the back, congratulate him, and celebate as if he got 100 %…
      “jesse” is the idiot ! !

      Like