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High-flying student launches art into space

A UCA Epsom student has proved that the sky is not the limit by sending her creative work into space and recording the journey.

Annabel Hewitson, who is studying a pre-degree Diploma in Art & Design, has always had a keen interest in astronomy and wanted to see her art in orbit. Creating an image of a group of astronauts, the 19-year old student from London set about attaching the image to a GoPro camera and a weather balloon, before recording her flying work as a broader art project.

“My astronauts image was attached to the front of a Styrofoam box using wooden dowel,” Annabel says. “A GoPro was put inside with a hole cut into the box so it could film the picture. There was also a list of names, a couple of devices to track the location, and a black box to record data. The box was attached to a balloon which was filled with helium and sent up to the stratosphere.

“When it reached around 33km, the air pressure was low enough for the balloon to expand to the point where it burst, and a parachute connected between the balloon and the box deployed. Using an app, I was able to track the locators and follow the box to its predicted location, which was about two hours away from where it was launched, and find the box where it landed.”

The space flight required permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who approved it with stringent conditions, including the location of the launch and direction of the wind at the time the balloon was released.

Annabel explains that bringing art and science together through the project was something she particularly enjoyed. “It’s first and foremost an art project,” she explains. “But a lot of the people involved were not artists and many were more interested in space from a scientific perspective. I had some help with working out how to record data from the journey, such as the air pressure, altitude and temperature throughout the flight, which made it just as much a science experiment as a piece of art.

“I’ve always been interested in space and I’d describe my ideal job as being artist in residence on the International Space Station. I wanted to use this project as a chance to explore the idea of making art in space and that led to sending my art up attached to a weather balloon.”