Thank You Alan Eustace
Though I am a serial newspaper reader, even I was overwhelmed by the hate, violence and fear that appeared in the Saturday, October 25, 2014 editions of my New York newspapers.
Witness: Cuomo and Christie Order Strict Ebola Quarantines,
Ottawa Gunman’s Radicalism Deepened as Life Crumbled
2 Offices Killed in Rampage (in Sacramento)
Korean Nuclear Advance (probably fit small weapon atop a missile)
Tears After School Shooting (in Marysville, Wash. three dead – three wounded)
Egyptian Soldiers Attacked (31 killed by insurgents in the Sinai)
Attacker With Hatchet Called Self-Radicalized (attacks two NYPD – one
And those are just some of the headlines. It was enough to make me pick up every section of all the newspapers and fling them into the recycle bin while screaming, no mas, no mas. But as I was imploding I turned the page of the New York Times to the National News Section and my eyes fell on a color photograph of a man suspended by a hookup connected to his back from the bottom of a balloon filled with 35,000 cubic feet of helium. The headline read: Parachutist’s Record Fall: Over 25 Miles In 15 Minutes.
That man is Alan Eustace, 57, an engineer and a senior vice president at Google. The photograph showed him during his two-hour ascent to an altitude of 135,908 feet where he started his descent breaking the world altitude record of 128,100 feet set by Felix Baumgartner on October 14, 2012.
But Mr. Eustace made his ascent “without the aid of the sophisticated capsule used by Mr. Baumgartner or millions of dollars in sponsorship money.” Eustace instead, gathered together a technical team with the brilliance to design his “spacesuit with an elaborate life-support system.” They had to solve many hurdles in life support systems, parachute and balloon technology to pull off this extraordinary feat. He had to breathe pure oxygen, his suit did not have a cooling system, so elaborate modifications were made to keep dry air in his helmet so the visor didn’t fog up. The entire event was recorded using a GoPro camera mounted to his helmet.
The ascent began from an abandoned airfield in Roswell, N.M. and it took a little over two hours for Eustace to reach the desired altitude. There, he set off a small explosive device which released him from the balloon beginning his return to earth where he reached a peak speed of 822 miles per hour, breaking the sound barrier and causing a small sonic boom.
“His technical team had designed a carbon-fiber attachment that kept him from becoming entangled in the main parachute before it opened. About four and-a-half minutes into his flight, he opened the main parachute and glided to a landing 70 miles from the launch site.”
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere which I had never seen before.”
Thank you, Alan Eustace, for doing this without corporate or government sponsorship. Thank you, Alan, for demonstrating what we are capable of accomplishing.
Thank you for casting a warm bright light where there was darkness.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
From: High Flight
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.