Blowing Up A Sex Doll In Space

During the eighth grade in 1984, I had a junior engineering class to draw blueprints and build models. The big projects we did were a cut-away section of a house, a racing car propelled by a carbon-monoxide cylinder, and a tissue paper hot air balloon.

My favorite project was the hot air balloon. I glued alternating sheets of green and white tissue paper into eight panels, cut each panel into a balloon-shape pattern from a template based on a mathematical formula, and glued the panels together to form a 48″ balloon with a narrow neck.

Because I assembled my balloon at home, the cats got to it with their sharp claws. I had to glue on 234 patches inside the classroom while everyone else flew their balloons. The best-case scenario for my balloon was for it to fill up and fall over due to the extra weight. The worst-case scenario was for it to catch fire from an ember (which did happen to some balloons, including one in flight).

The teacher held the flue over the wood-burning trashcan to direct the hot air. I held the balloon neck over the flue opening to fill it up. After I tied off the neck with a rubber band and let it go, the balloon floated 20 feet into the air and out of the courtyard to everyone’s astonishment. A group of us chased after the balloon two blocks down the street from the school. That’s the furthest any balloon went that day.

The teacher announced at the end of class that my balloon was a kludge—something that worked when it wasn’t expected to work. That was the happiest day for me in the eighth grade.

Kids today don’t know how good they have it when doing engineering projects. A weather balloon filled with hydrogen can carry a mounted camera to transmit video of a test object going into space. Like the video of this inflatable sex doll that went up 102,000 feet, exposed to extreme gamma radiation and the low surface pressure of Mars, and crashed somewhere in the Nevada desert.

Gives new meaning to the old Star Trek engineering motto: “She’s gonna blow, captain!”