Beloved 16-bit game’s protagonist seemingly makes cameo appearance in the clouds of amazing video.

In a lot of ways, 1995 SNES video game EarthBound was ahead of its time. It came to the U.S. several years before the RPG genre earned mainstream popularity in the country, and while the stylized kitsch of its visual aesthetic is considered charming today, at the time it was largely written off as primitive-looking.

Two decades later, though, EarthBound is considered a high-water mark of video game design and storytelling depth. The delayed respect and recognition have pushed the price of used copies of EarthBound into the stratosphere, and recently the owner of one of the rare examples decided the cartridge itself might as well go there too.

This wasn’t yet another marketing gimmick for the game that was once promoted with unappetizing scratch-and-sniff print ads, though, Instead, it was all done in the name of science.

Earth to Sky Calculus is an independent science club made up of high school and college students. Based in Bishop, California, a town of less than 4,000 people at the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Earth to Sky regularly launches helium research balloons to a height of 100,000 feet (30,480 meters), collecting data used to for purposes such as monitoring and developing radiation sensors. The club has no government backing, though, and instead relies on crowdfunding, with sponsors earning the right to piggyback an item of their choice and have its journey filmed.

One recent sponsor was 14-year-old Ronnie Doyle’s grandfather, who gave his grandson the choice of what to send into the stratosphere as a birthday present. “Being a video game collector, why not make Earthbound not bound to earth?” thought Doyle.

The video starts at liftoff, and by the time the cartridge reaches its maximum altitude, it’s high up enough to easily observe the curvature of the earth. Then, at the 3:50 mark, the balloon ruptures, and the return part of this round-trip begins, with the GPS-equipped probe, and cartridge, thudding into the surface of the earth at 6:54.

The sound of the impact is enough to crush the heart of classic gaming enthusiasts, but in the most surprising part of the entire video, Doyle reveals that the cartridge still works!

▼ The second-most surprising part is, as pointed out in the video’s comments, EarthBound’s baseball cap-wearing protagonist, Ness appears on the left side of the screen in cloud form and points at the cartridge during its descent at 5:14.

The journey is a testament to the awesomeness of science and the sturdiness of Nintendo’s cartridges. If you’d like to follow in Doyle’s footsteps, Earth to Sky’s sponsorship page can be found here, where the going rate is US$500 per flight.

Still, if you’re planning to send any valuable SNES games over a dozen miles into the sky, we recommend putting it in the box, or at least slipping the plastic connector pin cover on, before freeing it from its earthly bounds.

Related: Earth to Sky Calculus
Source: Gamespark via Hachima Kiko, H/T Kotaku
Images: YouTube/Krazy Contraptions