POETRY in motion does not get a higher profile than this – 21 miles up, where two prize-winning poems from Sheffield literally popped into space, writes digital editor Graham Walker.
The poems, written by Lewis Haubus and Lykara Ryder to celebrate Sheffield University’s 11-day Festival of the Mind, were cut up into individual words and launched in a weather balloon.
At the edge of space, where air pressure drops, the balloon burst as planned, sending the poems into the stratosphere.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our special video report, including breathtaking pictures from space.
It was high enough to see the curvature of the Earth, the thin blue line of the atmosphere and the blackness of space. And the entire, breathtaking journey – including the magical moment when the balloon popped and the poems were scattered – was captured by two video cameras in a foam-box payload, which then parachuted safely back to Earth.
A GPS tracker on board was used to find it 70-miles away in Linton-Upon-Ouse, in North Yorkshire.
The spectacular images recovered, including this dramatic sunrise, are some of the most impressive ever taken by the university’s Alex Baker and Chris Rose, PhD students from the mechanical engineering department.
They were asked to plan the flight after their first space balloon explorer last year, using home-made equipment.
Alex, aged 27, said: “Flight time was just over two hours and 40 minutes and the payload reached an altitude of 34km.”
Chris, 26, said: “It was nerve-wracking knowing the device was carrying the poems. We have never carried unusual cargo before.”
Lykara, 27, from Washington, USA, a PhD English language, literature and linguistics student, said: “I was shocked to win. The idea of my poem going into space was tremendous.”
Simon Armitage, a professor of poetry at the university, selected the winners and helped to launch a balloon from the roof of Sheffield’s Weston Park Museum.
He said: “The idea is to try to encourage the imagination to go beyond the everyday and the earthly.
“A good poem can transcend space and time and in just a few lines can fly from one end of the universe to the other. We thought the reward should match the ambition.”