Duluth Bike (cyclocross)

It would be really nice to have one of these for the long and cold Duluth winter.

MOOTS Psychlo X (or RSL)




Breaking the Sound Barrier — Without an Airplane.

A friend of mine, Jack Lavoy just send me this story.  Instead of editing the original text, I decided to post the whole thing.  This is an incredible story.  Enjoy!!!



This  story gives the term Test Pilot a whole new  meaning.

Joe  Kittinger is not a household aviation name like Neil Armstrong or Chuck  Yeager. But what he did for the U. S. space program is comparable. On Aug. 16, 1960, as research for the then-fledgling U. S. space  program, Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger rode a helium balloon to the  edge of space, 102,800 feet above the earth, a feat in  itself. 

Then,  wearing just a thin pressure suit and breathing supplemental oxygen, he  leaned over the cramped confines of his gondola and jumped–into the  110-degree-below-zero, near-vacuum of space.  Within seconds his  body accelerated to 714mph in the thin air, breaking the sound  barrier.

After  free-falling for more than four and a half minutes, slowed finally by  friction from the heavier air below, he felt his parachute open at  14,000 feet, and he coasted gently down to the New Mexico desert floor.   Kittinger’s feat showed scientists that astronauts could survive the  harshness of space with just a pressure suit and that man could eject  from aircraft at extreme altitudes and  survive. 

Upon  Kittinger’s return to base, a congratulatory telegram was waiting from  the Mercury seven astronauts–including Alan Shepard and John Glenn.   More than four decades later Kittinger’s two world  records–the highest parachute jump, and the only man to break the sound  barrier without an aircraft and live–still stand.   We  decided to visit the retired colonel and Aviation Hall of Famer, now 75,  at his home in Altamonte Springs, Florida, to recall his  historic jump.

FORBES  GLOBAL: Take us back to New Mexico and Aug. 16,  1960. 

Joe  Kittinger:   We got up at 2 a. m. to start filling the helium  balloon.  At sea level, it was 35 to 40 feet wide and 200 feet  high; at altitude, due to the low air pressure, it expanded to 25  stories in width, and still was 20 stories  high! 

At 4 a. m.  I began breathing pure oxygen for two hours.  That’s how long it  takes to remove all the nitrogen from your blood so you don’t get the bends going so high so fast.  Then it was a lengthy dress procedure  layering warm clothing under my pressure suit.  They kept me in  air conditioning until it was time to launch because we were in the  desert and I wasn’t supposed to sweat. If I did, my clothes would freeze  on the way up.

How was your  ascent? 

It took an  hour and a half to get to altitude. It was cold. At 40,000 feet, the  glove on my right hand hadn’t inflated.  I knew that if I radioed  my doctor, he would abort the flight. If that happened, I knew I might  never get another chance because there were lots of people who didnt  want this test to happen. 

I took a  calculated risk, that I might lose use of my right hand. It quickly  swelled up, and I did lose use for the duration of the flight.  But  the rest of the pressure suit worked.   When I reached 102,800  feet, maximum altitude, I wasn’t quite over the  target. 

So I  drifted for 11 minutes.  The winds were out of the east. What’s it  look like from so high up?   You can see about 400 miles in  every direction. The formula is 1.25 x the sq. root of the  altitude in thousands of feet. (The square root of 102,000 ft is 319 X  1.25 = 399 miles)

The most  fascinating thing is that it’s just black overhead–the transition from  normal blue to black is very stark.  You can’t see stars because there’s a lot of glare from the sun, so your pupils are too small. I was  struck with the beauty of it.  But I was also struck by how hostile  it is: more than 100 degrees below zero, no air.  If my protection  suit failed, I would be dead in a few seconds.  Blood actually  boils above 62, 000 feet.

I went  through my 46-step checklist, disconnected from the balloons power  supply and lost all communication with the ground.  I was totally bunder power from the kit on my back.  When everything was done, I  stood up, turned around to the door, took one final look out and said a  silent prayer: “Lord, take care of me now.” Then I just jumped over the  side. 

What were  you thinking as you took that  step?  

It’s the  beginning of a test.  I had gone through simulations many  times–more than 100. I rolled over and looked up, and there was the  balloon just roaring into space.  I realized that the balloon  wasn’t roaring into space; I was going down at a fantastic rate! At  about 90,000 feet, I reached  714mph. 

The  altimeter on my wrist was unwinding very rapidly.  But there was no  sense of speed.  Where you determine speed is visual–if you see  something go flashing by.  But nothing flashes by 20 miles  up–there are no signposts there, and you are way above any  clouds.  When the chute opened, the rest of the jump was  anticlimactic because everything had worked perfectly.  I landed 12  or 13 minutes later, and there was my crew waiting.  We were  elated.

How about  your right hand? 

It  hurt–there was quite a bit of swelling and the blood pressure in my arm  was high.  But that went away in a few days, and I regained full  use of my hand. What about attempts to break your record?   We  did it for air crews and astronauts–for the learning, not to set a  record. 

They will  be going up as skydivers. Somebody will beat it someday.    Records are made to be broken..  And I’ll be elated.  But I’ll  also be concerned that they’re properly trained.  If they’re not,  they’re taking a heck of a  risk.

Charles Darwin on cuttlefish





“I observed that one which I kept in the cabin was slightly phosphorescent in the dark.”    -Charles Darwin

Super interesting passage.  I am curious what he was looking at.