British Schoolchildren Attached a Pastry to a Balloon and Now It's Lost in Space

Do aliens like flaky, buttery crusts and fruit jam fillings?

Jun 21 2018, 2:30pm

Photo courtesy of S. Anselm's School

During a National Space Council meeting held at the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon and the Department of Defense to immediately begin the process of establishing a Space Force as the sixth branch of the US Armed Forces. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers,” he said. “But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”

We’re not saying it’s a coincidence, but earlier that same day, a group of British schoolchildren had already launched a flaky pastry into the stratosphere. The students at S. Anselm's Preparatory School in Derbyshire, England attached a Bakewell pudding to a high altitude balloon and sent it skyward, with hopes that it would ultimately float more than 114,000 feet (21.6 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

The pudding, which had a buttery crust, an egg- and almond-paste filling, and a fruit jam topping, literally made it to the stratosphere; it reached an altitude of 52,500 feet (just under ten miles) when the students lost contact with it. They haven’t heard from the dessert since.

“Last year, we launched a high-altitude balloon in preparation for this experiment and it was found by a couple on a beach near Skegness, who used the contact details on the balloon to let us know where it ended up,” Liz Scott, director of studies at the school, told the BBC. “We're hoping the same thing will happen again and we'll find out where the pudding ends up."

This isn’t England’s first attempt at unmanned, flaky crust space flight. In December 2016, a pie chef in Wigan joined forces with a group of scientists to launch a meat and potato-filled pie into the lower reaches of space. “It’s a monumental day for Wigan, launching a pie into space,” one of the event’s organizers told Wigan Today. “I’m pleased to say everything went smoothly. I can’t wait to retrieve the pie and pictures and see what went on up there. I wonder if it will encounter aliens?”

That pie floated 29 miles above sea level, near the top of the stratosphere. (The sort-of official boundary of outer space is the Karman Line, 62 miles above sea level.) It stayed silently in space for two hours, before falling back to earth and landing 38 miles from where it had been launched.

Scott and her students hope that their Bakewell pudding will eventually be recovered. We’re not saying that it might’ve been intercepted by Trump’s Space Force, but it might not not have been intercepted by Trump’s Space Force.