ANTIOCH, Calif. — A California seventh-grader has sent her Hello Kitty doll more than 90,000 feet above the planet — into near space — for a science project.
Lauren Rojas had the idea for the project while watching television with her father — they saw a Citibank commercial featuring three men who received reward points for using a weather balloon.
"I thought that was one of the coolest things ever, and thought right away it would be good for a project," Lauren told the Oakland Tribune.
The 13-year-old decided to test the effects of altitude on air pressure and temperature, and got the project approved by her science teacher. She decided to include Hello Kitty so it would feel more like something was actually going to space.
Lauren assembled the project with guidance from her father, including a flight computer and four GoPro cameras.
"It took about a month to plan and put it all together," she said. "I thought it would be a little easier. While working on it, we would think back at how easy it looked on the commercial and laugh."
The family spent less than $500 on the project, but that came with a lot of bargain shopping, according to Lauren's father, Rod Rojas.
"It was a pretty big undertaking. There are a lot of moving parts and a big checklist," he said.
The round trip took about 90 minutes and sent Hello Kitty to a maximum altitude of 93,625 feet. The doll landed 47 miles away from its launch site — an industrial complex parking lot — in a 50-foot tree, according to Yahoo News.
A YouTube video made about the project has been viewed nearly half a million times, and the project has gotten international attention. The Rojas family is excited about the interest in the project.
"It's been terrific how it's sparking all this interest. It's great because seeing all this, I think it's sparked Lauren's interest in science and pushed it that much further," her father said.
Multiple similar projects have gotten attention in the past year. In Feb. 2012, a group of teens launched a LEGO man into space. In September, a father sent his son's toy train into space, and an eighth-grader's science project caused confusion when it fell from space. In November, a hamburger was launched into space by a group of Harvard students.