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High school students launch NASA's rubber chicken into solar radiation storm

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A rubber NASA mascot named after a Muppet was sent into the upper regions of the Earth's atmosphere last month by a group of high school students.

Camilla the NASA chicken
Camilla the NASA chicken

When Bishop, California-based high school group Earth to Sky wanted to learn more about solar radiation, it knew there was only one possible option — to send a rubber chicken named Camilla into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The group teamed up with a class of 5th graders during last month's massive solar storm, and used a helium balloon to launch Camilla and a lunchbox filled with cameras, a cryogenic thermometer, GPS trackers, seven insects, and 24 sunflower seeds 119,000 feet into the air. The chicken was outfitted with radiation badges to measure the storm, and at its highest the balloon managed to reach the top 99 percent of the planet's atmosphere.

Of course, Camilla isn't any regular chicken — she's the mascot for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, not to mention quite the internet celebrity. NASA used the flight as a way to share information about the radiation storm with Camilla's multitude of social media followers. But if you think a group of high school students sending a chicken into near-space is impressive, keep in mind that the team describes this as only a reconnaissance mission. Later in the year Earth to Sky plans to send a species of microbes into the atmosphere to see "if they can live at the edge of space." If Camilla is any indication, they'll probably have a pretty good time.