Friday, October 24, 2014

Google Exec Breaks World Skydiving Record with 'Space Jump'

Google exec Alan Eustace broke the world skydiving record by jumping from a height of 135,890 feet after being hoisted to that altitude on a helium balloon:

I think that ISRO should consider trying experiments like this, in order to validate its spacesuit design for the Human Spaceflight program. This type of feat doesn't involve incredibly hi-tech equipment, and India has already sent large balloons to the upper reaches of the atmosphere before:

UPDATE: It looks like India was involved in this after all - our very same Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) which launched its own balloon to the mesosphere also worked on this latest space jump project:

  • Sreenivasan Shankarnarayan, Scientist in Charge (retired), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR): Since its inception in 1970, the TIFR Balloon Facility, located in Hyderabad, India has been used extensively by the Scientific Community from within the country as well as from abroad. All of the balloons for the StratEx program were manufactured by Balloon Facility off the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Hyderabad, India. Balloon Flights carrying payloads of scientific experiments in Cosmic Ray, X-Ray, Gamma Ray and Infrared Astronomy, Astrobiology as well as Atmospheric sciences have been launched from this facility with several important and interesting results being obtained. TIFR is unique in that it has all aspects of Scientific Ballooning i.e. Balloon Design and Fabrication, Payload Integration with Telemetry, Telecommand and other instrumentation, and finally Balloon Launch, Tracking, Data Collection, Balloon Flight Control, as also Payload Recovery, under one roof. For more information please click here.

If TIFR's unique expertise in high-altitude balloon experiments was the basis for this latest space jump, then why can't such endeavours be undertaken in India also? We already have these useless racecar teams like "Force India", etc, which provide no benefit to the country. However, an annual "space jump" event in India could continue to raise the profile of the country in relation to spaceflight, while also conducting useful experiments. We could even claim a bit of the space tourism market with such low-cost space jumps, or at least the extreme adventure sports market. How many people around the world are there who would love to suit up in a spacesuit and travel to the edge of space? Plenty of them would gladly queue up and pay up -- especially if they could boast of contributing to the development and testing of spacesuit technology. Why can't TIFR's expertise be usefully monetized here?

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