As far as we know, Pegasus, the winged horse of ancient Greek mythology never actually made it to outer space, but on May 2, 2014, a Ford Mustang did just that.
On that day San Francisco-area Ford zone sales manager Michael Sego, Steve Kubitz, managing partner of Big Valley Ford in Stockton, Calif., and some friends became the first to document a Mustang leaving earth’s atmosphere.
“We wanted to celebrate 50 years of Mustang and the impending arrival of the all-new 2015 Mustang by doing something really special,” said Sego. “Mustang has always been about getting behind the wheel and hitting the open road, but we decided to take to the open sky.”
Development of the original Ford Mustang began in 1961, around the same time astronauts were taking tentative first steps into space, which would ultimately land them on the moon. Ever since, while astronauts have been expanding the limits of scientific knowledge, Mustang has been inspiring drivers to expand the limits of their own experiences.
Launching a Mustang on a rocket into space wasn’t practical for Sego and the Big Valley Ford team, so they took inspiration from Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner. In October 2012, Baumgartner used a custom helium-filled balloon to ride a capsule up to nearly 128,000 feet above the earth before diving back to earth.
Sego and Kubitz acquired a high-altitude weather balloon, and added a rod to the side instrumentation box suspended below it. The team mounted one of the Revell Mustang model kits that were distributed at auto shows earlier this year on the rod, along with a pair of small action cameras to record the event.
Approximately 74 minutes after the balloon was released, it reached a maximum height of 110,000 feet, or nearly 21 miles. At that point the car and the instrumentation box – which contained a GPS location transmitter – came back down, landing in a field where it was retrieved about six hours after launch.
During its descent through the stratosphere, the only Mustang ever to venture into space went through a period of uncontrolled spinning – similar to what Baumgartner experienced during his jump – before getting low enough in the atmosphere to deploy the parachute.
“More than 9 million Mustangs have been built in the past 50 years, going to virtually every part of the planet,” added Sego. “We’re excited to have been able to take our favorite car to new heights by launching it into space.”