The Gustavus Physics Department announced Wednesday evening that they had completed their first successful space launch using the temporary speed bumps in place on Ring Road. The faculty-student research team, led by Chuck Neideriter, fine-tuned their formula over the course of several months to prepare for liftoff. “I came to Chuck with the idea after my friend drove over the speedbumps,” said Michael Copeland, a senior Physics major and the student team lead. “His minivan was in the air for at least 15 seconds. So I thought, what if the car was going 10 times faster?”
The team eventually settled on a 2009 Ford Fusion for the final launch after demolishing more than 20 vehicles during phase 1 testing. “We tried golf carts, Campus Safety vehicles, and my Hyundai Sonata. But the Fusion was the golden ticket,” explained Copeland.
Copeland and Neideriter also struggled to find volunteers to ride in the Ford during launch. Ultimately, first year Noah Sutcliffe came forward, citing his interest in space travel. “We’re not really sure what’s going to happen to him,” said Neideriter. “But he seemed really jazzed for the opportunity.” Sutcliffe, armed with several days worth of Caf pizza and a 30-rack of Keystone Light, was instructed to accelerate the Fusion to 150 miles per hour before hitting the first set of speed bumps, which forcefully propelled him upwards and into space. “He clocked in at 192 miles per hour before the car even left the ground,” noted Copeland. “I didn’t think a Ford Fusion could go that fast.” The car-driver duo was scheduled to enter Earth’s orbit early Thursday morning.
This launch cements Gustavus as the first MIAC school to successfully send a student to space. But despite this achievement, Gustavus community members should refrain from any attempts to recreate their results, according to an email from JoNes VanHecke, Gustavus Vice President of Student Life. “Please use caution when driving Ring Road,” her message warned. “Those bumps are there for a reason, and the reason is not space travel.”
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