February 21, 2015 marked another milestone in the success story of Zalando: we sent a shoe into the stratosphere!
After a failed launch in mid-December during our Zalando Hack Week, the Space Shoe Team resolved to persevere and try again. Over the following weeks we made some adjustments to our prototype and planned a new attempt. Our fine-tuning included buying a more resistant rope for holding the ship; improving the coordination around releasing the balloon and craft so that we could avoid overstretching the rope; and checking the weather forecast--paying close attention to predicted wind conditions. After making these changes, we knew we were good to go again!
So, on what was a beautiful Saturday in Poland, we accomplished our mission. The details:
08:00 - Team meets at our departure point: Zalando’s tech office in Mollstraße 1, Berlin. Six members of our 14-member team showed up--not bad at all for 8 AM on a Saturday. A lot of sleepy eyes in our group, but we had high hopes nevertheless. We gathered all the equipment and loaded everything into our cars.
08:30 - Start of our journey to the launch site at Kostrzyn, Poland, about 100km from Berlin. We chose Kostrzyn because we knew that it has a wide, open field perfect for activities such as launching golden women’s shoes into space. :)
10:05 - Arrival in Kostrzyn. After unloading our equipment, we inflate the balloon with helium and set up (and turn on!) the GoPro camera, smartphone camera and GPS tracker. We seal everything inside except for the shoe, which we attach to an outer metal structure and tie to the balloon.
11:05 - Prepare for launch. 3… 2… 1… and… LIFTOFF! And this time, the ship really blasts into space! We hear the first burst of excitement from the Space Shoe team!
11:16 - We lose contact with the ship. This means that the ship has either traveled too far above the earth’s surface to get GSM reception, or--we hope--has been launched successfully. Fingers crossed.
11:20 - The team takes a short lunch break to cool down and process our emotions.
11:42 - We begin our search journey. Although we haven’t yet restored contact with the ship, we take off in our car toward the expected landing site - identified by the simulation we did on this cool website.
13:47 - The ship is alive! We’ve restored contact and now the Space Shoe team releases a second burst of excitement. We can now precisely track the ship as it soars farther and farther toward the heavens.
16:29 - Arrive at the closest point in the road near the landing site. Apparently the ship had landed in the middle of the woods, so that when we walk over to the spot where the GPS tracker points us, we easily spot it. There it is, in perfect shape! Commence the team’s third burst of excitement.
16:59 - Our goal achieved, we get back in our cars and start our drive back to Berlin.
18:30 - The car in front of us suddenly stops on the side of the road, and someone gets out of the back seat. He motions for us to pull over. What is happening? Oh: It is Christian Kunert, a security engineer from Zalando’s platform team, who has already downloaded the flight video from the GoPro camera and wants to give us a preview. We’ve successfully captured the ship’s entire journey, as well as some beautiful footage of Earth. Cue the team’s fourth burst of excitement.
20:59 - We arrive back at the Zalando tech office. It’s time to watch the footage and listen to some victory music, eat some victory pizza and drink some victory beers. We’ve made it, and it feels good.
Our Space Shoe launch day was surely one of the most exciting moments that Team Space Shoe and I have had at Zalando. Please watch our ship’s journey video below and marvel at the grandeur of our planet from the perspective of a Zalando shoe.