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Haggis in space

Beam me up, Scotty: haggis nears edge of space in Burns Night celebration

Image credit: Stratonauts/Simon Howie

Space education and research company Stratonauts has worked with a butcher to carry a haggis from Scotland to the edge of space in a unique Burns Night celebration.

Scottish butcher Simon Howie prepared the traditional 454g haggis, which Glasgow-based Stratonauts carried towards space from the butcher’s headquarters in Dunning.

The lucky haggis did not merit a rocket launch. Instead, it was attached to a weather balloon and gently raised more than 32km above the surface of the Earth, approximately four times the height of Mount Everest. While reaching heights never before attained by a haggis in recorded history, it did not reach space, which is generally defined as 100km above the surface of Earth (the Kármán Line).

The haggis travelled over 80km above Stirling, Falkirk, Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills, before landing in Lauder in the Scottish Borders. The haggis was airbourne for two hours and 37 minutes.

“After a year like no other, we wanted to kick off 2021 by lifting the spirits of the general public,” said Howie. We are thrilled to have worked with Stratonauts to take Scotland’s national dish to new heights. Burns Night is one of the most important dates on the food calendar for us and we wanted to mark the occasion by sending the UK’s best-selling haggis, the Original 454g, to the edge of space.

“It has been a difficult time and I’m incredibly proud of everyone that works for me, from increasing production to support the supermarkets through the period of panic-buying to the demands of Christmas production and now Burns – we are working round the clock to produce over one million haggis and feed over three million customers our best-selling haggis. We hope that our space haggis gives everyone some much-needed cheer.”

The haggis was recovered and transport back to Howie’s headquarters, where reports say that it will be preserved as the “first haggis in space”.

The stunt was intended to bring joy to people unable to celebrate Burns Night together this year under lockdown, as well as to spark scientific and astronomical interest in young people. Following the current Covid-19 restrictions, Stratonauts plans to run workshops for primary school children to encourage them to consider STEM careers.

“Launching from Dunning was challenging due to the winds as we needed to ensure a safe retrieval of the footage and of course the space haggis itself,” said Stratonauts director Lewis Campbell. “Having monitored the weather for weeks, a window of opportunity finally presented itself – and what a window it turned out to be. Perfect conditions.”

He added that the haggis fell to Earth at around 320km/h before the parachute was deployed, “meaning it is also probably the fastest haggis in the world, too”.

The government hopes to grow the UK’s share of the global space market to 10 per cent by 2030, with companies offering satellite services, rocket launches, engineering spacecraft components and space tourism.

The ambition is for Scotland to become a space industry hub and home to Europe’s first rocket launch site (outside of Russia), with the first launch coming in the early 2020s. In October 2020, Lockheed Martin announced that it would transfer its satellite launch operations to Shetland Space Centre, supporting 605 jobs by 2024.

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