Edge of Space © SazzyB/iStock/Thinkstock
Apparently mankind learned nothing from the legend of Daedalus and Icarus; no matter how tragic or comic the disaster story, we are possessed by an ambition to fly onwards and upwards that cannot be deterred. 

Rocket Launch © 3DSculptor/iStock/Thinkstock

Zipcar recently celebrated centuries of heroic determination to venture into space with the Zipsters in Space competition, and were delighted to congratulate Zipsternaut Ashraf on winning a year’s free driving with Zipcar! We received hundreds of brilliant entries, and hope everyone will keep on shooting for the stars in their spacecrafts. Whether you’re an expert engineer or an amateur aficionado, here are some examples to help inspire lift-off. 
Image: Earth’s Horizon © James Thew/iStock/Thinkstock
Wan Hu
Those who aren’t familiar with the legend of Wan Hu – you’re missing out; this minor Chinese official became the world’s first attempted astronaut to venture into space during the middle Ming Dynasty, when he had a chair built for himself with 47 rockets attached. Hu then sat in the chair as 47 servants lit the fuses and ran for cover. There was a big explosion and when the smoke cleared, both Hu and his chair had disappeared forever, never to be seen again.    
Lagâri Hasan Çelebi
Better yet is the story of Lagâri Hasan Çelebi, an eccentric Ottoman aviator who launched himself skywards in a rocket propelled by 140lbs of gunpowder. He did so while proclaiming to the then-Sultan that he was going to visit Jesus; when the rocket failed and landed in the sea, Çelebi swam to the shore and gave the Sultan Jesus’ regards.  
Image: Celestial Light © Ig0rZh/iStock/Thinkstock
Civilian Space eXploration Team
It’s amazing what a few extra centuries will do for amateur space exploration, isn’t it? Following several less-than-successful attempts to venture into space, the Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) made history with the launch of their ‘GoFast’ rocket on May 17th 2004, which reached almost 116 kilometres and was the first amateur rocket to exceed the official boundary of space. 
Reliant Robin Space Shuttle
Series 9: Episode 4 of British TV show Top Gear ended with a bang, when hosts Richard Hammond and James May converted a 1992 Reliant Robin into an amateur space shuttle in just 12 days. It required eight tonnes of thrust, and was the most impressive amateur undertaking in Europe – that is, until a release bolt failed to detach, and the vehicle crashed into a hillside. Fortunately, only their pride was hurt. 
Corpulent Stump
In 2007 amateur rocketeer Richard Brown designed and built the famous Corpulent Stump: the biggest and most powerful homemade rocket of its time. The team spent £4,000 on its construction, and hopes were high until takeoff, when it only reached 1.8 kilometres. Now that’s what we’d call an epic fail.
Image: Edge of Space © SazzyB/iStock/Thinkstock
Brooklyn Space Balloon
A heart-warming story from Brooklyn, New York, where a father and son team launched their homemade Space Balloon on September 30th 2010. Attached to the balloon was a video camera inside an old take away container, which climbed to around 30 kilometres and captured spectacular footage of the edge of space. 
Qu8k Rocket
Amateur rocketeer Derek Deville made headlines back in 2011, when he launched the homemade Qu8k rocket from Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in a bid to win the prestigious Carmack Prize. The rocket reached altitudes of 121,000 feet, recording the entire launch and subsequent descent on camera.  
Image: Qu8k Rocket © Steve Jurvetson/flickr
Cannolo Transporter
In March 2014 an eccentric team of Sicilian amateur scientists – a.k.a. the ‘Sicilian Space Programme’ – launched a makeshift spacecraft composed of a large helium balloon, an insulated ice cream box, and a replica cannolo (small Italian pastry). The project cost around 350 Euros, and far surpassed the expensive Corpulent Stump by attaining heights of at least 29 kilometres. That’s one small step for cannolo, one giant leap for pastrykind.   
From car-converted space shuttles to homemade balloon spacecrafts, these amateur attempts to venture into space are nothing if not inspiring! But remember: when travelling on land, Zipcar’s always here to help.
Loading comments...


Welcome to Zipcar UK's’s blog – home to the latest news, offers and musing from Zipcar HQ in Wimbledon. Read more

Zipcar is a simple idea that's changing the way people think about driving. We park shiny cars and vans on streets around the world (there's probably one on a street near you) that can be yours by the hour or day. Find out more and join today

Nice of you to pop by. Got an opinion? Share it with us


meet our team

Meet our bloggers


follow us