Sunday, 14 October 2012

Space jumps, breaking the sound barrier

Today on the 14th October Sunday, Felix Baumgartner has stepped off a small platform and plunge into history. The world record of jumping higher then anyone was previously set at 102,800 ft by Joseph Kittinger a great effort considering there was a few glitches allow the way how he was almost blinded by the sun while trying to read the instrument panel and that there was a slight tear in one of his gloves which caused his hand to grow twice its size and rendered the hand useless. Despite these problems Joseph Kittinger jumped for 4 minutes and 36 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 614 miles per hour (988 km/h before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet (5,500 m).
But today that record was broken and was sensationalized around the world via live stream-cast by youtube.
What started on Friday, was delayed due to wether problems and eventually set back to sunday. Eventually after a 2 hour climb the capsule had reached to height roughly 128,000 ft or 24 miles. Felix had to depressurized the capsule and wait while he check safety procedures. Meanwhile there was a an issue with a  face plate, which seemed to be a threat to the jump. But eventually the doors opened and the Felix Baumgartner could jump off a platform no bigger then a skateboard.
The actual speed and other instrument stats disappeared leaving the image of Felix falling into a long dive which from a distance looked like a stone dropping. It was a shame that no onboard instrument readout or point of view shot was not shown at this epic event but after 4 mins or so the parachute opened and all seems well. The landing was textbook success and I guess all the cheers and clapping drowned out my ultimate question did Felix reached mach 1?. The live feed seemed to stop and start from then on and I cant help the question was unanswered. The website now holds a sign for a press conference to happen but an hour or so after the event I am waiting. According to the BBc website wrote.

 "Unofficially, the Austrian jumped from 128,097ft (24.2 miles; 39km). He fell for four minutes and 19 seconds, reaching a speed of 706mph (1,137km/h). These figures will undoubtedly change slightly once the chest pack information has been properly assessed."

I guess the mach question has been answered , but still leaves me with several other  thoughts about the event. The eventual press conference at 830 GMT confirms the speed question at mach 1.24. The record jump I guess was all about the speed while height and view seems to take a back seat. During the fall a flat spin threatened the attempt of supersonic speed. The back up plan was a automatic button system which opens out a chute system which prevents a potentially lethal spin. Utilizing the back up plan or safely protocols will prevent Felix reaching the sound barrier. Although in the end he took control and stopped the uncontrollable spin allowing supersonic speeds. In many ways it took courage to do this as an uncontrollable spin, many people would panic and would push the safety button. Despite the panic factor, the will to break the sound barrier was much stronger. Felix Baumgartners experience in previous skydives paid off as eventually he was able to control the spin and fly in a delta position.
On reflecting the sky dive earlier today, it makes me think of the possibilities that another attempt to beat the current record. My previous article about high sky dives are leading up to the research in high altitude escape  situations. So far the height of 128,000 ft is roughly the same height for aircraft like the Lockheed SR-71, most people would class this as the edge of space. In the coming events of advance space travel, its more likely that pioneering events like these will allow passengers to try to jump from a orbital height of 250 miles high in relative safety.
Space tourism will increase traffic and population to a point that such records would be taken for granted. Space jumps as I suggested will need to be the final back up plan incase of extreme emergency. Even with the current use of chemical rockets explosions are a potential threat, the possible future with perhaps nuclear reactor technology could lead to a meltdown. The need to escape such vehicles is a foresight that doesn't seem to be addressed with current space craft. But for now lets just celebrate the current success of Felix Baumgartner and marvel at the fact you don't need a car or plane to break the sound barrier...

No comments:

Post a Comment