Sightings of Morecambe’s missing astro-dog are coming in thick and fast after a campaign to find him went viral.
Cuddly toy Sam the Dog is an international sensation since he was ‘lost in space’ after being launched into orbit for a school science project.
The intrepid pooch was detached from a helium balloon 25km above the earth and has been missing since blast-off from the Midland Hotel roof on Tuesday.
Since then, the hashtag #FindSam has been shared all over Twitter, a Facebook page has been set up hoping to locate the furry traveller, and YouTube videos of Sam’s mission have been watched more than 200,000 times.
Morecambe Bay Primary school pupils who launched Sam appeared on BBC Breakfast News and visited the CBBC studios, and Sam’s story was covered by the New York Daily News, CBS, NBC, CNN and ABC in America, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Taiwan TV news as well as the BBC, Sky and national newspapers including the Independent and the Guardian in the UK.
Schoolchildren have also been out combing the area looking for Sam and made their own ‘Missing’ posters to put up all over town.
The latest sighting on Monday was in the Asda car park in Golborne near Wigan.
Siobhan Collingwood, head teacher of Morecambe Bay Primary, tweeted: “Somebody said they saw him on the car park Asda Golborne and thought he had fallen out of the car next to them, so put him on their roof!”
Another stranger sighting came from ‘Lur of the Planet Omicron’ who claimed to be holding Sam hostage and would release him in exchange for ice cream!
There was also a false alarm at Thorpe Park theme park in Surrey.
Equipment attached to Sam the Dog was recovered in a field near Burnley last week but there was no sign of the furry doggie astronaut - the mascot of the Midland hotel.
Film footage shows that Sam became detached prior to re-entry.
“We’ve been looking at the flight data closely over the past few days and when the helium balloon popped Sam was at 25.3 kilometres in altitude over the Waddington area of North East Lancashire,” explains Ben Berry from English Lakes Hotels, the managers of the Midland.
“This is about 23 miles from the launch site but the equipment travelled about 48 miles during the entire journey so an exact fix is difficult to pinpoint.
“It was a pretty blustery day too with the prevailing winds still suggesting that Sam came to land within a 50 mile radius of where he was last seen. Our instincts are that he may have come to land somewhere between Waddington and Burnley.”
Sam, who was named after an Old English Sheepdog belonging to Mr Berry, was filmed by specially attached GoPro action cameras and tracked by GPS equipment as he rose at a rate of six metres per second.
The mascot was launched by a team of pupils who joined forces with Midland Hotel managers English Lakes Hotels and SentIntoSpace.com .
“Sam’s flight went beautifully, taking him to the edge of space and well past the Armstrong limit of 19 kilometres above the earth,” said Mr Berry.
“Space travel is a risky business and Sam’s freefall didn’t quite go as planned.
“We are offering a reward for his safe return. The person who finds Sam will be treated to a complimentary stay at the Midland Hotel.”
Chris Rose from Sheffield-based SentIntoSpace.com adds: “Our GPS tracking equipment and live telemetry systems quickly enabled us to find the payload when it returned to earth near Burnley, but when we got there Sam was nowhere to be seen.
“Our footage indicates that one of the helium balloon tethers got tangled with the mascot when it burst at peak altitude and the freefall part of the flight commenced.
“We do not have any data on the aerodynamics of a toy dog or its terminal velocity, but we’re pretty sure Sam landed within a 40-50 mile radius of Burnley.”
Siobhan Collingwood from Morecambe Bay Community Primary School added: “The children created history with the space launch and would love to see Sam the Dog safely returned with tales to tell of his adventures.”
Anyone who finds Sam should contact English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues on 01539 433 773.