Red Bull Stratos: High Flying Publicity Stunt OR Important Scientific Triumph? - MyMoon

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Red Bull Stratos Jump Image

Imagine you have just enclosed your body in an advanced space flight suit, climbed into an OPEN and UNPRESSURIZED gondola, and begun the journey of a lifetime – over 128,000 feet to the edge of near space … hanging vulnerably from a giant helium-filled balloon? What is going through your mind as you climb higher and higher … knowing that at any moment one failure in your painstakingly-devised plan could spell your end – Game over? You can watch the historic ascent and fall here: Red Bull Stratos Video Clip

Would you take the leap? Tell us by voting on the MyMoon Poll this week.

These are questions that I have been pondering since Felix Baumgartner’s historic ascent and jump this past weekend. I must admit that I am in awe of the courage and – pardon the expression – cajones – displayed for all to see in this historic achievement. At the same time, I have to wonder if it was truly necessary. Was this some ill-advised marketing ploy – or an attempt at human greatness and advancement? I know that regardless of my opinion, this will go down as a historic human achievement (rightly so), and perhaps represents something too often missing nowadays: true human courage, ingenuity, and triumph!

Part of the ingenuity of the Stratos mission design (in my opinion) was the use of a High Altitude balloon (HAB). HAB's – like the one used by Red Bull Stratos - are an area of science and engineering that I have some personal experience using for educational purposes. While a science educator at a small hands-on science center, I helped to launch an educational HAB program aimed at providing high school teachers with another tool for bringing science inquiry and engineering into their classrooms. So, as I watched Felix, I couldn’t help imagining myself in his shoes … as the Einstein doll strapped to a HAB, which I had helped to launch and recover just a couple of short years ago. inline image

HAB provides a great opportunity for scientists and engineers alike to explore the edge of near space. Even better, it is fairly inexpensive. It is certainly possible to collect volumes of extremely valuable data that may be used to study a variety of science and engineering questions - including some that may be crucial to human space exploration. However, could it provide the level of data (and potential insight) collected by Baumgartner? Perhaps not, but does the scientific payback justify the risk? I have mixed feelings on this, but have to say that I am greatly inspired by what was accomplished. I'd love to find out what YOU think…please share your thoughts in the comments below. You can learn more about a current NASA Super Pressure Balloon project here (although there are many private and amateur groups doing exciting science as well): NASA Super Pressure Balloon and NASA Balloon Program Office .

A parting thought from Forbes about how the everyday person can glean some wisdom from this event (beyond the scientific): 10 Traits You Can Apply To Your Job...


Dennis M J M.

Tuesday Oct-16-2012

you raise an interesting point, but the same could be said of any record attempt. Is the longest consecutive one legged jump-a-thon a worthy goal ? How about the longest kiss ? All of these sorts of trivial accomplishments may be without scientific merit, but they are rigerously pursued nonetheless. Now to address this HAB stunt specifically I think it was very useful. It happened very close to the anniversary of the first supersonic flight and it speaks volumes about how our fundamental understanding of science has come along in the last 50 years.

At the time chuck yeager performed the first supersonic flight it was as much by chance as by science. Men commonly perceived the sound barrier as some sort of demon in the sky that enjoyed the taste of shredded aeroplane and flames. Vast sums were spent on rocket plane after rocketplane in the intial attempts to penetrate this great unknown. It was all tax-payer funded and the payoff (the concord jet) was ultimately considered as much of a novelty as a true advance in practical sciences.

Felix did something special this past week, he conquered the same barier with the absolute minimum of protection and mostly relying on benign natural forces (bouyancy, gravity, lack of sanity - lol).

The final testament to the greatness of this event wasn't even so much the jump as the awesome reception it received online. An inadvertent record was broken : most online views of a live event. This says a great deal about our hunger for exploration and pushing the envelope. We are all sitting reading the dreary news day in day out and waiting for the next big thing. Felix and RedBull showed us a picture of ourselves that day too. Many of us would have eagerly traded spots with Felix in that capsuel, others who wouldn't still admire it and had to accept that we live in a day where a simple soda company can send a man to the edge of space and back safely.

The event will live on, as you say, in spite of your opinions on the matter ;p but dont lose sight of the value of the human achievement just because it had corporate logos on it. For one, I would happily work on a rocket covered in coca-cola and walmart logos as quickly as I'd serve any national governemt as long as the ideals behind the project were peaceable. In fact I truly believe that in the future spacesuits and off planet work uniforms will more prominently feature corporate logos than national flags.

Either way RedBull and Felix have enscribed themselves into the annels of human history with this historic feat, but if it wasn't for the tremendous support it received online I may have felt more like you do. Surely there were better things to spend the money on. We can always argue that, but thats part of the beauty of freedom and capitalism, you can spend vast sums on any crazy private enterprise you want... human progress has always moved most speedily through the fancies of eccentric parties. Our progression towards becomming a truly extra-terrestrial civilization seems to be no different. I am thankful that RedBull had the vision and seriousness of purpose to do something like this. They didn't have to. I am pleased to see corporate profits going to something so visible, space-related and historic instead of just being spent on more and more traditional marketing. Even if promotion was their only goal in this, the achieved it and allowed Felix and all of us to experience something unique. Well worth every penny I've invested in RedBull as far as I'm concerned ;p

Also; I do believe the cabin was pressurized until they pumped up his suit and depressurized it to equality ... remember the 'open damn you door' cliffhanger there near the end ;p

Abhimat G.

Wednesday Oct-17-2012

I was debating myself over what the true intentions of the entire event was. Ultimately I decided that although Red Bull was getting a huge amount of advertising and publicity from the stunt, it’s more important that something like this is getting done. I think there need to be more of these daring attempts to both inspire the public and to allow the engineering and testing of crucial components that could help fuel the next round of space exploration. I don’t think I completely mind whether it is being carried out by private funding or public funding, as long as there are people and organizations who care enough to push further towards space exploration.

Nick A.

Sunday Oct-21-2012

There's always some amount of marketing involved---the Google Lunar X PRIZE, is, of course, the "Google" Lunar X PRIZE. And even Apollo was spurred by image/positioning/PR. Just brand strategy on a different level.

The marketing (or political) motivations provide the last little push for people to try the big things that might not otherwise be risked. If it means new horizons get pushed...and it's just human nature, really. The caveman might try a little harder to rub those sticks together and make fire once he realizes there's something in it for him other than just discovery.

Exciting things with space (like this jump) will inspire more people to want to try---and vote for, and pay attention to---cool things in space. So I think this can only have a positive impact, especially on the heels of Mars Curiosity.

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