Skydiving from Space — The Next Extreme Sport?

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It takes a certain kind of person to enjoy jumping out of airplanes -- or off of mountains, or out of balloons, or from bridges -- and those people look like cash cows to the new space-tourism industry, according to New Scientist magazine. That's because while most people will be satisfied with a once-in-a-lifetime trip into space, extreme-sports enthusiasts -- also known as adrenaline junkies -- will keep coming back for more. In anticipation of that market, entrepreneur Rick Tumlinson has started a company called Space Diver, to develop and promote the sport. But the thrill-seeking also has a practical side. Equipment developed to allow skydivers that ultra-long thrill can also be used as safety gear in an emergency. One scenario for how it would work: The space-suited diver would ride on a platform atop the rocket into space, then simply push away to begin the descent. The diver would then free-fall until about a mile above the surface, then deploy the parachute for safe landing.

Space Diver plans to begin low-altitude tests with rocket deployments next year, according to the New Scientist. First, the team will drop dummies, then tests will begin with people, who will make the first-ever jumps from a rocket, starting at about 10,000 feet. "We need to show that we can leave the vehicle safely," Tumlinson told the magazine. "Everything else has already been done in the '60s."