Friday, 19 October 2012

Free falling

Following on from yesterday’s post.

Imagine being able to look over humanity, all of history, art, literature and love. Imagine looking downwards at our planet, seeing it in its entirety and its surrounding spatial infinity. Imagine floating up and beyond the earth’s hazy blue sky in what we mere mortals consider a wicker basket and a balloon. Just the other day, the 43 year old Felix Baumgartner, drifted into the heights of our sky, indeed into our upper atmosphere and freefell 23 miles, plummeting back down to our safe earthly ground. Let’s not forget that he is not the only space lunatic out there, Jospeh Kittinger was the first to set the record for the longest skydive, falling from the dizzying heights of 19.5 miles. I can only see them as an inspiration; they are two men, picked out of a crowd of 7 billion other people. They are my heroes, and my space Gods.

But sometimes I have to remind myself that they are human beings like the rest of us. Their mortal bodies have to endure a lot and be put under serious pressure. To even have a chance of surviving they have to wear 100lbs of space suit nonsense, they have to resist the bone chilling temperature of -55ºC and the lack of air and low pressure means bubbles begin to form in liquid and yes, that means that their blood could start to boil like a pan of hot soup. But these are just the minor risks of freefalling from our beautiful planet’s atmosphere. We forget that these space men are falling faster than the speed of sound. If they passed through the sound barrier, the airflow would change around them meaning that the pressure is bigger and badder, and would force them into an uncontrollable flat spin. Their blood would rush to the top or the bottom of their body and that is when it gets scary. But hey, guess what, these super space dudes survived and continue to live on in their epic hot air balloon legacy.

My free falling space daredevils make me daydream for hours on end. I imagine what they felt like on their ascent and descent; I imagine their fear, their free fall tumbling, their parachute jerking, stomach wrenching, epic and final landing. I think of situations where I introduce myself as the person who travelled faster than the speed of sound, I am a mortal sound-defeating bullet.  But for now here I am, a human happy to live my whole life with my two feet placed on this earthly ground.


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