Skydiving is quite the rush. There’s a certain lemming-like quality to free falling thousands of feet towards the Earth with only fabric encased in a backpack to stop you from a date with gravity. The act of skydiving and the idea of it becoming a sport would have seemed absurd just 100 years ago, when we could barely even get airborne. Now skydiving is the ultimate thrill. Unfortunately he feeling of your stomach up in your throat is only pleasurable for so long, and you’re left looking for that next thrill. In this case, jumping from heights that would make your blood boil. Is space skydiving the extreme sport of the future?
A typical skydive is a minute long roller coaster ride from just under three miles above the Earth’s surface. A jump like that occurs in the troposphere, the area of the Earth’s atmosphere within 10 miles of the ground. Believe it or not, in 1960, a gentleman by the name of Joe Kittinger rode a balloon up 19 miles above the Earth, into the stratosphere, and hurled himself towards the the blue planet. Kittinger fell for almost five minutes straight, reaching speeds upwards of 600 mph. After 50 years, Kittinger amazingly still holds the record for the longest, fastest and highest skydive in human history.
With technology drastically better than ever before, a modern day daredevil named Felix Baumgartner is trying to break Kittinger’s half-century record, as well as become the first human to break the speed of sound (768 mph) outside of an aircraft. At the Armstrong Line, 12 miles above the Earth, your blood will boil without the comfort of a protective spacesuit. Baumgartner has completed two test jumps from 13 miles up, and is ready for the real deal. Felix is ready to try and set a new world record by sky diving from over 23 miles above the Earth later on in 2012.
With commercial space travel set to begin in 2013, we’re clearly not content to just hang around on the 197 million square mile surface of the Earth. While simply being able to look at the entire Earth at once will be breathtaking, that alone won’t be enough for thrillseekers. It seems inevitable that skydiving from space will one day become an extreme sport for many, it’s just a matter of when. Would you ever consider a freefall from 120,000 feet above the Earth? Does this make you think of any other potential future extreme sports?
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