Paper Airplanes Launched From Space, Soar Back to Germany, Australia, Canada

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It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... a piece of paper?

An ambitious group of amateur scientists set out to break a simple record -- the longest flight by a paper airplane. But to accomplish this simple task, they went way beyond the call of duty. Beyond the edge of the atmosphere, even.

The Project Space Planes team -- fronted by Joel Veitch, a British web animator -- launched a weather balloon carrying a whopping 200 paper planes from a field in Germany all the way into outer space. The planes raced back to Earth, and Veitch says reports of them have been filtering in from all over the world, including destinations as remote as Canada, Australia, India, and even South Africa.

How can they verify the reports? Each plane carries a tiny Samsung memory card, each carrying an individual message uploaded on the Project Space Planes website.

"It's like a modern-day message in a bottle," Veitch told Each message is unique, uploaded by enthusiasts to the site -- some videos, some audio files, whatever.

"We put those messages onto these memory cards … people find the memory cards, put them into their computer … they will get messages from people all over the world and we will get to find out how far these planes have gone."

The planes were designed by a paper airplane specialist, Veitch said, one staunchly opposed to the standard "dart" design plane. They were optimized for fast flight, built of heavy card stock rather than ordinary lightweight paper, and each comes with a virtual stabilizer -- all to help them withstand the gusting winds that could easily reach hundreds of miles per hour.

"It's quite a specific design, and he's done his research on it," Veitch said.

The planes were loaded into a net, hung beneath a weather balloon filled with 2,065 gallons of helium gas, and sent over 23 miles into space before the balloon burst and fell back to Earth. It took about 2.6 hours to rise that high, but only 40 minutes to fall back, Veitch said.

Could a paper plane from space really have sailed around the globe, however? Veitch admitted to being suspicious of some of the results, notably the plane spied in South Africa.

My suspicion is that it's more likely they'd stay on a similar latitude," he said. "I'm a bit suspicious of the South Africa one." But America's not out of the question, he said, noting that the winds the planes encountered were really substantial.

"The world record paper plane travels 12 feet across the ground for every foot it drops," he noted. "So it's not unreasonable to think one might travel to America."

Newscore contributed to this report.