One giant leap for reptiles: Chinese firm blasts turtle into near space in step towards trips for humans
Company says it was the first time a live animal had been safely taken into near space and could pave the way for space tourism
A Chinese technology company this week claimed it had successfully launched a live turtle into “near-space”, marking another step forward in the firm’s efforts to sell space tourism to humans.
Shenzhen-based Kuang-Chi Group said it blasted the yellow-headed turtle, nicknamed “Little Cloud”, to an altitude of 21,000 metres inside a helium-filled craft. The launch took place from western China’s Xinjiang region at about 4am on Wednesday morning.
The craft landed safely at about 8.28am the same day, and the turtle was said to have survived the trip.
The company said it was the first time a live animal had been safely taken into near space, and that the trip paved the way for it to sell commercial flights to humans by 2018 or 2019.
A representative of Kuang-Chi Group said last year that its space tourism trips would cost about 700,000 yuan (US$105,000).
The latest mission, which followed an unsuccessful attempt in November, “passed the life insurance test, laying the foundation for the effective verification of key technologies that will bring us closer to human space travel,” the company told the Post.
Other companies in the space tourism business include US-based World View, which has tested similar helium balloons in the Arizona desert, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
In a report on Friday in Shenzhen Economic Daily, the company’s chief engineer was quoted as saying that its newest helium balloon featured a translucent capsule attached to a lower pod with a sling.
A cabin for the turtle was installed inside the pod, and fitted with various functions to control air pressure, oxygen levels and temperature.
Additional reporting by He Huifeng