Skydiving From the Edge of Space
June 22, 2017 10:07 AM   Subscribe

How Alan Eustace, a Google engineer on the edge of retirement, broke the world record for high-altitude jumping.

Previously on Metafilter. This new article has a lot of personal detail on the preparation and jump.
posted by Nelson (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed the documentary they made about that endeavor....
posted by ph00dz at 10:32 AM on June 22, 2017

"engineer" - he ran Google's entire engineering organization as a senior VP. He's not just a huge nerd, he's really, really rich.
posted by GuyZero at 1:32 PM on June 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

So quick googling did not find the exact online calculator but how much reaction mass would it take for a single astronaut to adjust their personal orbit from the ISS at 250 miles down to 25 miles, well and essentially slowing to a "stop" so they could then parachute to the ground?
posted by sammyo at 1:38 PM on June 22, 2017

He also funded his alma mater's Computer Science department almost single handedly. And he's one of the nicest people I've ever met.

And he's a real SWE. Could still code while running the Goog Eng.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 4:40 PM on June 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

sammyo: With aerobraking you don't need much reaction mass since dropping your perigee into the atmosphere doesn't need a big change in velocity (eg the shuttle needed ~100m/s). There's a calculator here. With a small solid rocket (ISP of around 150 say), you'd need about 20kg of propellant for a 100m/s delta v for a 200kg person+suit. For orbital skydiving, what you really want is a MOOSE!
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:10 PM on June 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Without detracting from this huge achievement I'm going to have to pull out the same rant I used for the Red Bull guy some years back and point out that the altitude involved is nowhere near the edge of space.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:23 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sure, by raw distance, 26 miles is only half way (by the USAF' s 50 mile definition, which is itself short of the 100km Karman line), but it'd be pretty hard to tell the difference if you were up there. You're above almost all of the atmosphere (pressure is 0.1% of sea level, eg 10x less than on Mars), the sky is black, the curvature of the earth is clearly visible, you need a pressure suit to survive, an aircraft would need RCS for attitude control since there's not enough air for control surfaces, and its jet engines would have flamed out for lack of oxygen miles below, etc. I think calling it the edge of space is a fair description of the environment, it's just that by distance the edge is kinda wide.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 4:08 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can a balloon carry a hypothetical skydiver to the edge of space at all, or would she or he have to jump out of a spacecraft?
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:13 AM on June 23, 2017

The highest a balloon (uncrewed) has ever gone is 53km, which is only half way. JP Aerospace have a concept they call Airship-to-Orbit that would use buoyancy to get a bit higher than that, then use what they call hybrid electric/chemical propulsion to accelerate to orbit, but I'm not really clear on what that is...
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:22 PM on June 23, 2017

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