I don't know what you guys did over your Christmas break but we sent an iPad to space.
Derek gave his dad and brothers a big blue box for Christmas, inside which was a big blue balloon that popped up with a note promising a day of adventure.
Basically, Derek wanted to launch a weather balloon into near space with a few cameras attached, and once the balloon got so high that it popped and fell back to earth, we'd hunt it down and retrieve it and see what kind of pictures that it took.
Before we left the house, we enlisted the help of our five year old niece to write a note to any potential finders of our balloon, begging them to return the balloon (and iPad, and all the other expensive gear we would be tying to the weather balloon) and hope that whoever happened upon it would have a heart.
The next thing we knew, Derek had us hauling things like enormous helium tanks and weather balloons out to a field.
Many things were duct taped and tied together, including a GoPro camera and iPad for documenting the journey to space, a pretty gold ball for deflecting radar (or to stand in for a disco party later), a red parachute for the flight back down, a GPS so that we could find everything later, little hand warmers to keep the machinery toasty and functioning in negative degree space weather, and a custom made metal contraption to hold it all together - all weighing in under the 4 pounds required to keep us from having to have official paperwork saying that we can launch things into (near) space.
We filled the weather balloon with helium until it was about 7 feet in diameter, and when we let it go ... well - it left for space in a hurry.
This is us watching it go:
This is the balloon, watching us watch it go.
The GPS tracked the progress of the balloon, and after a few hours of nail biting, we finally got a signal letting us know that our balloon had landed in the middle of nowhere a few hours southeast of where we had launched it.
When Derek finally tracked it down, the cameras had some treats like these:
Not a scratch on the iPad. We've still got two more weather balloons, so we may be making a habit of this.