Tag Archives: NASA

Falling Felix


Imagine a roller coaster plunge that lasts over four minutes…

So there was this guy, Felix, who fell from outer space to the earth, without a spaceship. For real! He fell faster than a .22 caliber bullet fired from a rifle. He fell faster than his own screaming voice, faster than the speed of sound itself. And he lived to tell about it. You can watch him do it.

Have you ever ridden a roller coaster? You know the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you take that first plunge? Scientists call it “free fall”. On a ‘coaster, this feeling lasts a few seconds. People who jump out of airplanes with a parachute (skydivers) experience free fall for about 60 seconds. Felix experienced free fall for over four minutes when he fell from outer space.

In 1947, Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager was the first human to “break the sound barrier” traveling faster than the speed of sound (also called Mach 1). He did this in a special fighter jet airplane. At the time, scientists weren’t even sure if humans could go that fast and live. Nowadays, supersonic (faster than the speed of sound) jet airplanes are commonplace, but back then it was almost science fiction. But, as impressive as that is, imagine going that fast without the jet airplane!

Sixty-five years later to the day, in October 2012, daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped out of helium balloon from 24 miles up (over 127,000 feet). This is 4 times higher than most jets fly. There is only 2% of the Earth’s atmosphere at that height, 98% of the air is below.

The mission was named Red Bull Stratos. Felix wore a suit similar to NASA astronaut suit because at that height there is no air to breathe and it is wicked cold. Felix fell for over ten minutes and landed safely with a smooth parachute landing. He reached a maximum supersonic speed of 833 miles per hour (Mach 1.24).

Felix set the world record for the highest skydive ever, and the fastest free fall ever. His accomplishment didn’t just make the record books, it provided scientists with incredible information that will help them build safer space suits and train future astronauts (maybe even you).

Watch the incredible video shot from his helmet-cam and by his Red Bull Stratos crew.

Fun Phineas Falling Felix Fact
One record Felix did not break was the longest free fall ever. Felix fell for 4 minutes, 16 seconds, falling short (pun intended) of the record set by Joe Kittinger of 4 minutes 36 seconds. Even though Felix jumped from a much higher altitude, he was going so fast, Joe fell 20 seconds longer!


Web site: Felix Baumgartner – Red Bull Stratos

Web Site: Free Fall on Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on October 14, 2012. (Red Bull Stratos / Red Bull Content Pool)

Armchair Explorer: Postcards from the Red Planet

Self-Portrait of Mars Rover Curiosity – NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

No matter how far you go, it’s always nice to keep in touch with the folks back home. That’s especially true for a spacecraft that has traveled millions of miles just to send pictures and other information from the surface of Mars back to scientists on Earth.

On June 19, researchers at NASA released their biggest, most detailed picture ever of the surface of Mars. For space fans following the progress of NASA’s Mars rover — named “Curiosity” — as it explores the surface of the Red Planet, pictures are nothing new. One of the great things about NASA is that mission scientists share lots of the data sent back to Earth. Armchair explorers can browse information on the Web — photos, charts, maps, animations and multimedia — alongside scientists around the world.

But the latest picture is NASA’s hugest ever (in camera terms, more than one billion pixels!), which means you can change your viewing angle, move it around and look at different parts of it. When you see something interesting, you can zoom in for closer inspection. See an interesting rock a mile away? No problem. Click and zoom until you get a better look.

It’s as close as you can get to taking a stroll around the surface of Mars.

Billion-Pixel View of Mars Surface with Pan and Zoom

The reason such detail is possible is that the image is made by stitching together nearly 900 pictures taken by Curiosity as it moved around the surface. The pictures were taken over several days in the October and November of 2012. The area photographed includes a windblown patch named “Rocknest,” and extends to Mount Sharp on the horizon. “It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras’ capabilities,” said Bob Deen of the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

To access the image and start your own “roving” adventure, go click on the link above.


NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an independent agency of the United States government responsible for aviation and spaceflight.

PIXEL: The basic unit of the composition of an image on a display screen; basically, one single dot that can’t be divided.


PRESS RELEASE: Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover

WEB: NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory

WEB: NASA’s All About Mars

WIKI: Mars Science Laboratory

WEB: Information on NASA’s Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory


Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS “Updated Curiosity Self-Portrait at ‘John Klein'” This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. The updated area, which is in the lower left quadrant of the image, shows gray-powder and two holes where Curiosity used its drill on the rock target “John Klein.” The portion has been spliced into a self-portrait that was prepared and released in February (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16764), before the use of the drill. The result shows what the site where the self-portrait was taken looked like by the time the rover was ready to drive away from that site in May 2013.

The rover’s robotic arm is not visible in the mosaic. MAHLI, which took the component images for this mosaic, is mounted on a turret at the end of the arm. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images, or portions of images, used in the mosaic.

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, developed, built and operates MAHLI. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project and the mission’s Curiosity rover for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed and assembled at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.