Spain shirt sent into space

MADRID - A Spanish national team shirt was attached to a balloon and launched 33 kilometres up into the atmosphere to celebrate their first qualification for a World Cup final.

The Spanish company Zero 2 Infinity were moved to celebrate Wednesday's 1-0 semi-final victory over Germany and honoured the achievement at the 14th European Balloon Festival in the Spanish town of Igualada the day after.

"It wasn't planned (to send a shirt) at first, but after the victory over Germany we had space for a bit more weight on our test flight and I thought it would be appropriate," founder and CEO of the company Jose Mariano Lopez Urdiales told Reuters by telephone on Saturday.

"I went out to buy a shirt but couldn't find one because they were all sold out. I had to buy it off a guy in the street who needed some convincing. I had to show him some photos of what we did."

A photo from Thursday's flight, with the shirt suspended above the earth, was posted on the company's website.

Zero to Infinity was set up one and a half years ago and is developing balloons with the aim of being able to take people up to get a view of the earth from the edge of space.

They see it as a cheaper and less environmentally damaging alternative to rocket travel and hope to complete a manned trip by 2015.

"We want to elevate people literally and emotionally," Lopez Urdiales said.

"After watching the Spain match and seeing how it lifted people in these troubled times, we thought there was a spiritual dimension which fitted with our objectives."

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