Space Diving By Orbital Outfitters (And 'Doc' Smith)

The Space diving suit from Orbital Outfitters is both an extreme sporting device and an emergency backup for returning from space.

(Space Diver [PopSci])

One of the developers of the suit, Jonathan Clark, is a former NASA flight surgeon with a somber reason for working on the suit. His wife, astronaut Laurel Clark, was killed in when the space shuttle Columbia burned up in reentry.

Clark and his partner Rick Tumlinson, who founded the Space Frontier Foundation, hope to demonstrate a 120,000 foot jump by 2009 (the current record for a skydive is 102,800 - set in 1960. The first space dive, from a height of sixty miles, would be attempted two years later.

(USAF Captain Joseph Kittinger, Jr. jumps from balloon gondola)

And who was the first to think of the idea of space diving from near-orbital altitudes? Probably E.E. 'Doc' Smith, in his classic 1934 novel Triplanetary:

Back toward the trailing edges then, to a small escape-hatch beside which was fastened a dull black ball... He gasped as the air rushed out into near-vacuum... He rolled the ball out onto the hatch, where he opened it: two hinged hemispheres, each heavily padded with molded composition resembling sponge rubber...

...He curled up into one half of the ball; the other half closed over him and locked. The hatch opened. Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..

And as the ball bulleted downward on a screaming slant, it shrank!
(Read more about ablative heat reentry shield

Read more about space diving.

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