Friday, October 19, 2012

Speed Demons

With little of consequence to do but enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation in the home of the Johnson Space Center (Go NASA!), I finally spent a little bit of that free time checking out the video of Felix Baumgartner's Supersonic Jump, which took place on Sunday October 14.  Let us set aside for a moment the fact that he landed ON HIS FEET and with the grace and aplomb of Fred Astaire.   How about we focus - for just a moment - on the steel in this man's spine in the moment before he began his descent.  This is a picture of him in mid-salute as he prepares for his descent. 


I stay off of ferris wheels due to my height-related anxiety.  To say that this feat is beyond impressive to me is to make me guilty of something I am rarely accused of, which is understatement. 

Baumgartner stepped out of his capsule a robust 24.26 miles above the Earth.  At top speed during his trip downward he accomplished his goal of eclipsing the speed of sound (which has nothing it turns out to do with whether anyone on the ground can hear you as you scream from twenty-four plus miles above the Earth), achieving a top speed of 833.9 miles per hour. 

Baumgartner did his thing on the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager having been the first human to break the speed of sound, which Yeager did while wearing an airplane as opposed to a pressurized spacesuit.  Before he made the jump, Baumgartner said, "Sometimes you have to get up really high to know how small you are."

Just for fun the now eighty-nine-year-old Yeager spent his Sunday marking the sixty-fifth anniversary of his achievement by doing it again - albeit this time from the rear seat of an F-15 Eagle.  At 10:14 a.m. - no one ever accused Yeager of lacking a keen sense of dramatic flair - Yeager's plane went supersonic.  Again.

Is it just me or do you suspect that if we all fortunate enough to have Chuck Yeager with us this time next year that Yeager - age 90 - and Baumgartner - roughly a half-century his junior - will join forces to do something that even by their incredible standards is extraordinary? 

"This is Fearless Felix to Ground Control.  I need you to set up a table for two for lunch.  What time?  About nine minutes from now."

-AK


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