I’m visiting Washington DC in two weeks on the way back from the SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas. Although I’ve been to Washington before I’ve never visited the National Air and Space Museum or the Udvar-Hazy Center. I have between 6 to 8 hours to spend at either one. If it’s the Museum, I might explore the Planetarium and checking out the Mars Rovers exhibit. If it’s the Udvar-Hazy Center, I would obviously like to see the Space Shuttle Discovery.
If you had to choose between the Museum or the Udvar-Hazy Center, which would you pick and why? Any visitor tips for me? Is there anything I absolutely should not miss? Also, if you are in Washington on Saturday or Sunday March 8 / 9th and are free to tour with me, leave a comment or contact me on this blog 🙂
39 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, there is no oxygen.
There is no air pressure.
There is no warmth.
There is no life.
And yet, on 14 October 2012, a man ascended to that height in a helium balloon thinner than a plastic bag, and leapt from the gondola, accelerating into a free fall dive of over 1350 km/h – faster than a jumbo jet plane. On the way down, he broke the sound barrier and a whole lot of records.
The BBC/National Geographic/Red Bull joint documentary of this feat is called “Space Dive“. It’s enthralling – a 5-year behind the scenes exploration of this whole crazy project. The incredible planning, the painstaking attention to detail, the jump accidents, and the human drama is all revealed.
Felix Baumgartner comes across as a driven, focused, but sane skydive specialist who initially pursued his dream with a laser focus. Then he got shaken by nerves as the reality of how incredibly hostile the altitude he was diving from began to sink in. He became so rattled by claustrophobia and jump accidents, that at the height of the project, when he could no longer face the prospect of putting on his pressure suit, he packed up and retreated to Austria, and the entire project was on the edge of disaster.
While the Red Bull Stratos technical team struggled for over a year to put the final touches on the stratospheric balloon “space program” they had to invent, Felix underwent psychological counselling in an attempt to calm his nerves and renew his will to jump.
Finally, as he watched a project video of a test pilot acting out his part in the capsule, he felt a surge of competitive spirit, and decided to return to finish the job.
The documentary follows the highs and lows of this epic space jump. The behind-the-scenes drama and the hurdles Felix, his advisor Joe Kittinger, his dedicated technical team led by Art Thompson, and his sponsor Red Bull, all have to overcome, makes his eventual jump seem like an even greater achievement than it appeared at the time.
This is a highly entertaining and jaw-dropping behind-the-scenes look at one of the greatest stunts of all time. Highly recommended!
You can watch the complete documentary online here.
And here are the space dive mission highlights on YouTube:
Have you seen this documentary? What do you think of it?
In my professional life, I am the co-chair of a meetup group dedicated to professionals who use Microsoft SharePoint technology. The group is getting pretty big and it’s a lot of fun and a great way to meet people with shared interests. On Thursday at our latest meetup we had renowned SharePoint experts fly in from Salt Lake City, Montreal, and San Francisco so it is even becoming “international”!
Since there is a lot of interest in NewSpace and the space sector in Ottawa, I was certain there must be a meetup group dedicated to that. It would be a lot of fun to attend regular meetups to chat over drinks and food, listen to speakers, and learn about NewSpace trends and technologies.
But, when I checked the Meetup Groups website I found there wasn’t an existing group. That was a surprise.
So, I started it.
You can join it here. Hopefully this group is the start of something fun – it could be a really cool mix of space geeks, entrepreneurs, and would-be astronauts…
Our first meetup will be a kickoff in a pub in the Byward Market, on Thursday April 6 (pub TBD). If you plan to attend, please join the group and RSVP for our first event on the website so we can plan capacity.
I hope to see you there!
[Update – what I called a “plan” is actually a policy framework]
The government of Canada has just announced a new space policy framework for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), in response to the recommendations of the David Emerson Aerospace Review. Industry Minister James Moore announced Canada’s revamped space policy framework in the presence of new Canadian Space Agency president Walter Natynczyk (whose first speech I covered here), as well as Canadian astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques. The report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is here.
According to the announcement, the Canadian government is committing to continue Canada’s Astronaut Program, and is further committing $17 million of additional funding for the James Webb Space Telescope which when launched in 2018 will replace the aging Hubble Telescope.
Of interest to the NewSpace sector in Canada is that a Canadian space advisory council will be established, to be comprised of “stakeholders in the public and private space domain” and chaired by the CSA president. The plan calls for assisting “the private sector to support space activities…and working with international partners to pool data for mutual benefit and obtain services and technologies that would otherwise be unavailable.”
The practical details of this, and the ramifications of this council for encouraging NewSpace activities in Canada are yet to be determined. Although the NewSpace sector should not become dependent on Government assistance (that entirely defeats the point of the sector) sustained government assistance is definitely required and welcome to incubate space-sector private companies.
I think that Canada has the raw ingredients to be a NewSpace leader. We have demonstrated expertise in mining, robotics, biotech, computers, space technology, telemedicine, and satellite communications. We are a wealthy nation, with stable banking, high scientific literacy and advanced business sectors.
To paraphrase our former Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier, this could be “Canada’s century” in space.
Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner performed an epic space jump on October 14, 2012, by ascending over 24 miles above Roswell, New Mexico, in a stratospheric balloon. He set several world records that day, and the event also was a patient and canny marketing stunt for both Red Bull (which spent millions of dollars and backed him for seven years) and now GoPro, whose cameras he used to film his remarkable (and terrifying) descent.
This video contains update footage of the jump, and is released just in time to advertise GoPro cameras during the SuperBowl:
Nothing about this jump could be called “mainstream” but perhaps this is the start of a trend of marketing space activities as “cool” and using them to sell things on Earth? If so, we can expect more of these kind of ad campaigns when XCOR, Virgin Galactic and other Space Tourism companies start launching, perhaps as early as this year.