Soaring words as poems launched into space

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POET Simon Armitage joined forces with two PhD students at Sheffield University to launch two poems to the edge of the earth.

The poems, on the theme of space, were chosen as winners of the university’s poetry prize from more than 170 entries.

The space balloon

The space balloon

They were then released to float up into the upper atmosphere from the roof of Weston Park Museum attached to a helium balloon created by mechanical engineering students Alex Baker and Chris Rose.

The pair built the balloon using duct tape, a polystyrene box and a heat pad to stop the equipment from freezing in temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees celsius.

On its maiden voyage last year the balloon reached heights of 37km, where it delivered photographs showing the curvature of the earth before bursting and travelling back down to earth by parachute.

Mr Rose, 26, said: “It was fascinating launching the balloon from the roof of the museum and it was quite nerve-wracking knowing that the device was carrying the poems – we have never carried unusual cargo before.”

Mr Baker, 27, added: “The balloon travelled at around five metres per second, which isn’t rocket acceleration, but enough so that the entire flight took around two-and-a half-hours.”

Mr Armitage, who is originally from Marsden, West Yorkshire, and is professor of poetry at Sheffield University, selected the winning poems and helped launch them into space.

He said: “The idea of sending a poem into space is to try to encourage the imagination to go beyond the everyday and the earthly. A good poem can transcend space and time, and in just a few lines can fly from one end of the universe to the other.

“In this project we thought that the reward should match the ambition of whichever poem dared to fly the highest.”

The winning poems were written by Lewis Haubus and Lykara Ryder.