Space Diving by 2011?

Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger, Jr. jumps from Excelsior III balloon gondola in 1960 test, freefalling toward Earth for over 4 minutes. (Image credit: United States Air Force)

Can you imagine jumping from a plane or other vehicle atnear-orbital distances? You'd have to be crazy. Or maybe a science fictionwriter. The first person to think of the idea of space diving from near-orbitalaltitudes is arguably E.E. 'Doc'Smith, in his classic 1934 novel Triplanetary:

Back towardthe trailing edges then, to a small escape-hatch beside which was fastened adull black ball... He gasped as the air rushed out into near-vacuum... Herolled the ball out onto the hatch, where he opened it: two hinged hemispheres,each heavily padded with molded composition resembling sponge rubber...

Getting back to the present, the space diving suit currentlyunder development by Orbital Outfitters is both an extreme sporting device andan emergency backup for returning from space.


One of the developers of the space diving suit, JonathanClark, is a former NASA flight surgeon with a somber reason for working on thesuit. His wife, astronaut Laurel Clark, was killed in when the space shuttle Columbia burned up in reentry.


Clark and his partner Rick Tumlinson, who founded the SpaceFrontier Foundation, hope to demonstrate a 120,000 foot jump by 2009. Thecurrent record for a skydive, set in 1960, is 102,800 feet (see photo).


The first space dive, from a height of sixty miles,would be attempted two years later (see an artist's rendering of the spacediving suit).


Via spacediving.


(This Science Fiction in the News story used withpermission from - wherescience meets fiction.)


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Technovelgy Editor

Bill Christensen is the founder and editor of Technovelgy, a website dedicated to cataloguing  the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers. Bill is a dedicated reader of science fiction with a passion about science and the history of ideas. For 10 years, he worked as writer creating technical documentation for large companies such as Ford, Unisys and Northern Telecom and currently works to found and maintain large websites. You can see Bill's latest project on Twitter.