Yep, you read that right. The latest tool in the arsenal of the scientific study is a rubber chicken named Camilla. Camilla was tied to a helium balloon and floated 120,000 feet above earth to study solar storms as part of an experiment by a group of high school students and fifth graders.
The rubber chicken wasn't lonely on her trip, being joined on the trip by a modified lunch box with cameras, a thermometer, GPS trackers, two-dozen sunflower seeds and seven insects. Everything you'd need to spy on solar storms up close.
The launch was well timed — hitting the atmosphere during the strongest solar storm witnessed in the last five years. While Camilla has remained silent about her experience, the insect passengers were more telling by what they didn't say since none of them survived.
Whether it was radiation or the turbulence that did them in isn't clear.
The other data collected by the students' experiment hasn't been released yet, and the seeds that made the trip have yet to be harvested. Fortunately the short video released does give us some insight into the chaotic trip.
The high school students involved in the project are part of a group called Earth to Sky from Bishop, California. Camilla was on loan to the group courtesy of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory where she serves as mascot in residence encouraging young women to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers.
Camilla, a space veteran, adds some scientific street cred to all the other space travellers that have hitched a helium balloon ride. Other unusual space cowboys have a Lego Space Shuttle and a proud Canadian Legonaut.