Vegemite toast in space!
Imagine you’re a kid again. You’re eating Vegemite toast on your parent’s lounge, watching a documentary on space and the great beyond. You’re tired – it’s been a long day of pretending to be an astronaut – and suddenly, your imagination has transported you into space; Vegemite toast still in hand.
Sounds unbelievable, right? Well, for a small group of UTS students, this childlike dream (kind of) came true. In April, Gavan Huang and his UTS Professional Aeronautics and Astronautics Society (PAAS) team launched an honest-to-goodness piece of Vegemite toast into space. It reached 28 kilometers above sea level – that’s higher than a 747’s cruising altitude!
Why did they did do it?
For two reasons!
First, as the founder of PAAS, Gavan wanted to train his fellow members with engineering and project management skills that would be relevant in the future. After all, how cool is it to have ‘launched Vegemite toast into space’ on your resume?
Second, and more importantly, says Gavan, they wanted to demonstrate that space is literally accessible for your average, everyday Australian – “you don’t need big budgets, big satellites or to be the most academically gifted. The goal was to show that space could be democratised.” Plus, because he loves “dumb and ridiculous things”, Gavan wanted his launched item to be a classically Aussie food.
How did they do it?
Most materials the team used to build their contraption were purchased from places like Big W, The Reject Shop and Bunnings, furthering their mission to make space accessible. They hot-glued the freshly buttered and Vegemite-ed toast to an insulation-foam platform, attached a GoPro and GPS tracker, and connected it all to the weather balloon that would pull everything up into space.
They then released their contraption (after getting approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and local airbase) and the toast spent a total of 90 minutes in the air.
Once it landed, Gavan and the PAAS team drove three hours, and had to ask a farmer for permission to go onto his land and pick up their toast.
Did this relate to their studies at all?
Surprisingly, yes! Gavan studies Mechanical Engineering and Marketing, so for him, the project was the “perfect way to bridge both worlds”. His engineering knowledge came in handy for preparation and the launch, and his marketing expertise is the reason that you’re reading this story right now!
Ultimately, though, Gavan and the team wanted this crazy-yet-incredible feat to demonstrate the importance of science in this day and age – if we can launch vegemite toast into space, surely we can do anything.
The most important question of all … did they eat the space toast?
Yes, although they weren’t too impressed with the taste. Gavan describes it as tasting like “drenching the toast with salty rain water, freezing it, letting it thaw, drying it under the sun again and then eating it”.
We can only hope they used the right ratio of butter to Vegemite!