'Aqua Dragons' to Ride Balloon to Near-Space

Humanity has sent some fun and interesting things into space, like dolls, Legos and a soccer ball. But until now, that list hasn't included any commercially available crustaceans.

A Kickstarter from the startup World Alive aims to change that with tiny creatures called Aqua Dragons. Like Sea-Monkeys, Aqua Dragons are brine shrimp — a species of aquatic crustacean. The difference between Sea-Monkeys and Aqua Dragons lies only in the brand name, similar to the difference between Coke and Pepsi, Aqua Dragons explained on the company website.

And soon, those cute, little crustaceans could be the first-ever commercially available "Astro Pets."

More than 13 million Aqua Dragons eggs will fly on an uncrewed mission into Earth's stratosphere. The eggs will be attached to a large meteorological balloon and launched from an airport, slowly floating into space over about 2 and a half hours.

Soon after breaking into near space, somewhere between 19 and 25 miles (30-40 kilometers) in altitude, the helium-filled balloon will expand so much that it will burst, sending the Aqua Dragons floating back to Earth with a parachute.

Engineers tracking the balloon from the ground will pinpoint the vessel's landing position. Once the balloon touches down, the Aqua Dragons team will collect the box of eggs and package them up for sale.

"Aqua Dragons will travel to space, just like our favorite astronauts," Aqua Dragons wrote on the Kickstarter page.

The Kickstarter has already exceeded its $50,000 goal (the group has raised about $51,800 so far), and the campaign ends on Saturday, March 18.

Possibly the coolest part about Aqua Dragons is the stuff that comes with them. Anyone who buys the eggs can watch a recording of their new pets' journey in a 360-degree video taken during the flight. Kickstarter backers get even more cool extras. Generous sponsors who give $2,000 or more get a chance to send something personal, like a photo, into space on the balloon, and some sponsors will get to see the launch and have lunch with an astronaut.

But even if you can't pledge thousands of dollars, just owning some of the first pets to ever travel to space is pretty cool.

World Alive offers three options to buy these unique pets:

  • Deluxe Kit (24.95 euros, or about $26), with planet-shaped tank, glow-in-the-dark and LED light-up base, thermometer, bubbler, eggs, and food
  • Regular Kit (14.95 euros, or about $16), with glow-in-the-dark and planet-shaped tank, food, and eggs
  • Refill Kit (7.50 euros, or about $9), with food and eggs — you provide your own tank.

Aqua Dragons in Space are already available for presale to people who support the Kickstarter, and the pets will be on sale for everyone else later this year.

Follow Kasandra Brabaw on Twitter @KassieBrabaw. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Kasandra Brabaw
Contributing Writer

Kasandra Brabaw is a freelance science writer who covers space, health, and psychology. She's been writing for Space.com since 2014, covering NASA events, sci-fi entertainment, and space news. In addition to Space.com, Kasandra has written for Prevention, Women's Health, SELF, and other health publications. She has also worked with academics to edit books written for popular audiences.