World View Enterprises, a Tucson, Arizona start-up, has gotten FAA approval for a revolutionary experience, riding 19 miles into the stratosphere and getting a spectacular view of the planet… by balloon.
Which may not sound like much to most jaded humans, until you remember that a commercial airliner generally flies no more than one mile high. Mount Everest, the highest point on the planet, is about 5.5 miles high. You’re still in atmosphere, and it’s not quite considered orbit (officially designated as being 100 km or 62 miles high)… but for the view, I’d say it’s frackin’ close enough. Continue reading
I stayed up the other night to watch NASA’s Curiosity Rover descent onto the Martian surface. Well, it wasn’t so much watching Curiosity… it was watching NASA personnel reacting to the telemetry that told them what Curiosity was doing. In some ways, it’s like watching a sports announcer calling the game, instead of actually watching the game. But hey, with NASA, that’s the way it works.
Though it’s been awhile since I watched a NASA event, much less stayed up late to see one, this one fascinated me because it was a landing design unlike anything NASA had done before: Using a “skycrane” platform to hover over the surface, lower the rover to the ground on cables, then cut loose and land elsewhere. If you haven’t seen the simulations of how it should (and apparently did) work, you should.
But there’s something else that fascinates me, about this moment, and about NASA: They have become a textbook model of American efficiency. Continue reading