PETALING JAYA, June 24 — A hamster has safely returned home after a trip into 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 the masses.
The hamster was placed in an airtight plastic cabin and lifted off with a balloon at Miyakojima city in Okinawa on June 9, said the company in a recent media statement.
The cabin was monitored during the test flight to ensure that oxygen levels, atmospheric pressure and temperature were the same as on the ground.
The company added that a camera installed in the cabin showed that the creature was comfortably snoozing during its flight.
"The hamster is in good health,” the company reported.
After reaching an altitude of 23 kilometres during its hour-long journey, at the rate of 6.3 metres per second, the hamster was successfully recovered from the sea off Miyako Island.
In 2018, the firm carried out a similar experiment with a tropical betta fish — the fish reached an altitude of 28 kilometres, and safely made it back.
As per its website, Iwatani Giken designs, develops, and manufactures high-altitude gas balloons and airtight cabins with the aim of "near space travel”.
According to The Hokkaido Shimbun Press, the firm’s next experiment will be a manned test flight to a maximum altitude of 25 kilometres.
A company spokesperson said this height was where "people can feel outer space”, as they would be able to see the curvature of the Earth.
"We will continue to carry out experiments so that people can get on board and return safely,” the spokesperson said.