Japanese company launches hamster into stratosphere as part of space travel experiment

A photo of the hamster looking up at the sky, taken as the hut reached an altitude of 12 kilometers. — Image courtesy of Iwatani Giken

By Priya Kulasagaran

Friday, June 24, 2022 3:30 PM MYT

PETALING JAYA, June 24 – A hamster has returned home safely after a trip to the stratosphere via a flying balloon.

The experiment was carried out by Japanese company Iwatani Giken as part of its goal to make space travel accessible to as many people as possible.

The hamster was placed in an airtight plastic cabin and took off with a balloon from Miyakojima City in Okinawa on June 9, the company said in a recent press release.

The cabin was monitored during the test flight to ensure oxygen levels, atmospheric pressure and temperature were the same as on the ground.

The company added that a camera installed in the cabin showed the creature sleeping comfortably during its flight.

“The hamster is healthy,” the company said.

After reaching an altitude of 23 kilometers during its hour-long journey, at a speed of 6.3 meters per second, the hamster was successfully retrieved from the sea off Miyako Island.

In 2018, the company conducted a similar experiment with a tropical betta fish – the fish reached an altitude of 28 kilometers and returned safely.

According to its website, Iwatani Giken designs, develops and manufactures high-altitude gas balloons and airtight cabins for the purpose of “near space travel”.

According The Hokkaido Shimbun Pressthe firm’s next experiment will be a manned test flight at a maximum altitude of 25 kilometers.

A spokesperson for the company said that height was where “people can feel space” because they could see the curvature of the Earth.

“We will continue to conduct experiments so people can board and return safely,” the spokesperson said.