Dad sends son's toy reindeer into space to teach him 'ideas can come true'

'Kids need to be taught that what they imagine as kids can come true as adults'

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 29 November 2018 19:31
Interview with David Taverner about movie 2018: Reindeer Odyssey

There are some things that mark a traditional Christmas: children's wonder, wintry weather, reindeers, reindeers in space.

At least that is the Christmas celebration depicted in one new film, which depicts a father's attempt to send a toy reindeer right up to the edge of the atmosphere and back down again.

David Taverner successfully flew his son Lockie's toy right into space as part of a mission to teach children that their ideas can become reality – no matter how fantastical and even absurd they might sound.

"We sent a toy reindeer to space. And the reason was I wanted to teach my kids that their ideas can come true," he tells The Independent, speaking with Lockie next to him. (There is absolutely no doubting that the aim of enthusing the youngster about the world of science is working; he sits through our interview with a drawing of a spacecraft on his shirt, and this interview has got in the way of looking at dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum.)

The idea came to Taverner as he was watching SpaceX send one of Elon Musk's cars into space. "I decided what could we send to space that would be impressive and inspire them? And I decided a teddy bear floating across the sky would probably be the right thing."

Once he'd made that plan, a whole range of technical challenges presented themselves. "The main one is how do you get it up there? It went to about 109,000 feet, so three times the height of a plane. It went up there on a high altitude helium balloon, usually used for weather readings.

"But the hardest thing is how do you get it down again?" In the end, the team relied on a flight engineer to work out how fast the balloon would rise, where it would burst, and then when it would fall back down again.

Getting that right meant that Taverner – and Lockie – could find the reindeer where it fell.

The team already have thoughts about new projects. They might shoot for the poles, for instance, go up some mountains – or even go out to the far reaches of our atmosphere, getting to the legal definition of outer space.

But he's clear that all of that is with one aim: inspiring the young man sat next to him into believing that such a trip would be possible.

"Kids need to be taught that what they imagine as kids can come true as adults," he says. So I thought why not send a reindeer to space to teach him to imagine."

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