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Tauranga company sending toy mascot to space

By Genevieve Helliwell

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Eva the cow from Tauranga could soon become an international celebrity when she is launched to the edge of space.

Tauranga internet service provider Enternet Online Ltd (EOL) has won a worldwide competition to send an object to the edge of space in a Nasa expedition in support of World Earth Day on April 23.

EOL has chosen to send its stuffed cow company mascot Eva, which stands for EOL Virtual Assistant.

Wearing a lapel pin from Tauranga City Mayor Stuart Crosby and the Western Bay of Plenty District Council logo on her jacket, Eva will be lifted more than 36,576m to the edge of space in a Nasa-designed balloon capsule.

The primary purpose of the expedition is to gather information and samples from the atmosphere and capture images of meteors.

EOL managing director Terry Coles exclusively told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend it was exciting to be selected from hundreds of entries for the monumental journey and it would help promote Tauranga and New Zealand to the world.

"To think that a little Kiwi company could bid against others across the globe and win this opportunity is amazing.

"A cow is an appropriate thing because it's had bad press about global warming so we thought it would be funny to send a cow up to where the problem is."

Mr Coles learned about the opportunity through Nasa text-alerts from Nasa space scientist Dr Tony Phillips. EOL used the text-alert service to learn about solar flares and storms as these can affect wireless, which is a big part of EOL's business, Mr Coles said.

Mr Coles and his wife used the text-alert to get real-time information while on a trip to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights in February.

On the trip Mr Coles saw a Nasa alert about the expedition and was the first person to respond. That made him a favourable candidate, he said.

The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend tried to contact Dr Phillips, who is leading the expedition, but he could not be reached by the time this edition went to press.

Mr Coles said Eva had to weigh less than 500g as Nasa intended to set a high-altitude record for meteor photography. He said the balloon capsule could reach anywhere from 36,576m to 45,720m before it popped and the capsule plummeted to earth.

Eva's journey will begin on Monday when she will be transported by TNT Couriers from Tauranga to Auckland and abroad. Mr Coles said she was a special service delivery and would be personally managed along the way. In California, Eva would be prepared for her space voyage by students from Bishop High School. The two-to three-hour space flight would be videotaped and Eva tracked by GPS to allow mission controllers to locate the capsule when it returned to Earth.

Mr Coles said he wanted to send pohutukawa seeds into space and plant them after the trip but MAF rules made it too complicated.

In April 2012, Nasa sent a rubber chicken named Camilla to the edge of space and dolls of Barak Obama and Mitt Romney in November 2012.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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