Thursday, June 28, 2007

Space Diving

Bungee jumping, sky diving, and cliff diving a little too tame for you? Maybe you need to take it up a notch. Check out the future of extreme sports: space diving. Popular Mechanics has posted a story about this Intriguing idea which is in development. I've posted the start of the article below:

Scenario 1: Sport
Sixty miles up, you sit in a chair on the open deck of a small rocket, admiring the stars above, the Earth far, far below. The vacuum beyond your visor is cold, but it would boil your blood if your pressure suit failed. You give your parachute straps a reassuring pat. It’s utterly silent. Just you and your fragile body, hovering alone above the Earth. “Space Diver One, you are go,” crackles a voice in your ear, and you undo your harness and stand up. There’s nothing for it now: You paid a lot of money for this.

You breathe deeply and leap, somersaulting into the void. The mother planet is gorgeous from up here. You barely perceive that it’s rushing up toward you, and your body relaxes. You streak into the atmosphere at 2,500 miles an hour, faster than anyone’s ever gone without a vehicle. The sky lightens, the stars disappear behind the blue, and a violent buffeting begins. You deploy your drogue chute for stability; an uncontrolled spin in this thin air would rip you apart. The thick lower atmosphere slows you to 120 mph—terminal velocity. After a thrilling seven-minute plummet, you pull your main chute at 3,000 feet, hands shaking, and glide in for landing. A mile away, your rocket retro-thrusts its way gently to the ground.

Scenario 2: Safety
Sixty miles up, you float easily in the cabin of a small rocket, admiring the stars above, the Earth far, far below. Suddenly, alarms sound. Space debris has pierced the ship, and it begins to break apart. In seconds, the air is gone. It’s utterly silent. Pain gathers in your face. Your tongue and eyes seem to be boiling. The captain rushes over and flips down your visor, and you feel better. Then he screams “Go!” over the radio, and pushes you toward the door. There’s nothing for it now: You don’t want to die.

You close your eyes and leap, tumbling into the abyss. The curved horizon spins wildly. You let out a scream of terror as it rushes up toward you, and then you black out. Minutes later, a sudden jerk wakes you. This must be death, you think—your flesh meeting Earth at horrible speeds. But it’s the tug of your chute deploying at 3,000 feet. You realize you’re going to be all right. You glide in, touch down, and collapse in convulsions, traumatized. Through your tears you see your friends nearby, similarly undone but alive. You spot smoke on the horizon where, a mile away, your ship returned to the ground in an angry hail of twisted metal.

For sport or safety, hurtling to Earth from space without the protective shroud of a heavily engineered space vehicle seems like sheer lunacy—a hellish descent punctuated by intense heat and terminal, well . . . splatter. But believe it or not, the physics actually works out. With a heat-resistant space suit and the right kind of chutes, such a daredevil plunge should indeed be possible. And with the right people involved, it edges into the realm of the probable. . .

May Light increase!


Warren said...

whoa...sign me up for scenario #1!

Mark said...

Yeah, me too! The speed . . .