AN 18-year-old schoolboy has given NASA a run for their money by launching a Lego shuttle into the stratosphere.
Amateur space buff Raul Oaida incredibly managed to send the £30 craft soaring 22 miles into the sky to the edge of space, with the help of a giant helium balloon.
The teen enlisted the assistance of Australian entrepreneur Steven Sammartino, 38, on the project after the pair met on a social networking site.
It was Steve who first suggested the use of Lego “because it’s just cool”, but the pair were worried the toy pieces might not stay together in the harsh conditions of outer space.
To help the tiny toy on its epic journey Raul used superglue to stick together the 180 white blocks that make up the vessel.
The Lego Shuttle was launched from a field in Lauda-Königshofen, Germany, on December 31 last year.
Raul, of Deva, Romania, said: “We were worried that it might not be strong enough to stay together in the 320mph winds in outer space — so I stuck the pieces together with superglue.
“We were so excited during the launch. It was just a muddy field so there was nothing glamorous about it like at NASA — but we still shouted, ‘Blast off!’
“I thought it would work because I had put a lot of time into making sure everything was set up correctly.
“I’d done everything that was needed and it was just down to the Lego Shuttle to stay together.”
An alternative idea to the creation of the Lego Shuttle was to use a large action figure of kids favourite BUZZ LIGHTYEAR — but the burly Toy Story figure was deemed too heavy for the maiden voyage.
Raul said: “We messed about with a few ideas but in the end it was between Buzz and Lego — Buzz was too heavy and we thought the Lego Shuttle looked really cool so we went with that.
“It looked so good on the video in space — I couldn’t believe it. We waited in the field for half an hour as it took off. Then we headed in the direction it was drifting so that we could pick it up.”
The novice space team tracked their shuttle using a GPS system.
And they were in place for the homecoming when the craft landed 150 miles away from its launch point in yet another muddy field.
The vessel was in the atmosphere for a total of six hours and the project cost a total of £1,900 — a pinprick compared to the £124billion spent by the US on sending shuttles into space.
Project partner Mr Sammartino said he hopes the launch will help stop preconceptions that mega bucks are needed to fund space projects.
He said: “I think we’re in an age now where we can do cool things just because they’re cool, that need no financial reasons.
“Technology has democratised so many things, power is being decentralised so that people with good ideas but are countries apart can find each other and do cool stuff and challenge what the world can look like five to ten years from now.”