From the Edge of Space to Your Living Room

Felix Baumgartner

By: Joe Avram

One hundred eleven years ago man-kind could barely get off the ground. Now, there is a man that can say he jumped toward earth from the edge of space. Not only that, but he set 5 world records including becoming the first person to break the sound barrier during free fall. On Sunday, I anxiously sat on my couch with my computer on my lap, waiting for a man to get the OK to step out into space.  Of all the sporting events I have participated in and watched, nothing has ever been as nerve racking as Sunday afternoon.  I watched with over 8 million others around the world as Felix Baumgartner took a leap out of a perfectly good capsule and calmly proclaimed to the world, “I’m going home now.”

I grew up hearing countless stories of what it felt like to see the first man walk on the moon, hear the first news of Sputnik or watch the launch of Apollo 11. It fascinated me how far science and innovation had come and left me wishing I could witness something similar in my lifetime. So now, it feels incredible to have watched a human shatter expectations and move science forward on such a grand stage. To me, the numbers are mind blowing. Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 833.9 mph during his free fall from the edge of space. So, what type of suit could withstand that force and protect the human inside? One created by the US company, David Clark, that has been making suits for astronauts and high-altitude aviators since 1941. Baumgartner’s suit was based on those worn by pilots of high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, but it had never been used in a free fall setting until Baumgartner began testing it. It had four layers consisting Gore-Tex and heat and flame-resistant Nomex. All these layers had to keep him safe, comfortable, and mobile under such extreme conditions. As an engineer, it’s impossible to not be inspired by the innovation that made the jump a success.

In case you missed it, check out the amazing piece of history:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOoHArAzdug?list=PLnuf8iyXggLF2b7bYQU5s2FqW1sLE1ywh&hl=en_US&w=560&h=315]

Gazing at Galaxies Far, Far, Away from GRAEF…

By Jason Jacobson

Saturn 2012-05-18

Saturn 2012-05-18

Last night, as the skies cleared and the stars shined brightly, I was able to look up in the north sky and see the International Space Station fly through the sky for a brief few minutes.  It is amazing to think about all we have learned about space flight and our universe in just the past century, and even more amazing to think about what still lies out there to learn.  Life is GRAEF is about the people that make GRAEF the great company that it is to work for.  But what do the people of GRAEF like to do when they need to clear their head and just get away from work for a while.  Something that many people don’t know about me is my interest in astrophysics and astronomy in general.  When away from work, it gives me time to free my mind and learn about our incredible universe and what role our tiny planet plays in this vast space that surrounds us.

My interest in astronomy started early in my life.  Like many kids, my brothers and I received a small telescope as kids and spent the nights upstairs at the farmhouse that we grew up in gazing out the window at stars thousands of light years away and observing the moon which as kids looked so close to us through that lens.  Later on in grade school I had the assignment of doing a report on a constellation.  My report was on the constellation Orion.  Writing that report on “The Hunter” and talking about the thousand year history of observing it and describing the stars that make up its belt was something very exciting for me to research.  To this day I still love picking out Orion in the winter sky and thinking back to that report that I did many moons ago.

Jacobson Observatory

Jacobson Observatory

In my adult life I started to study and read books on Astrophysics.  I know, you must be saying to yourself “how boring”, but this led to my renewed interest in astronomy and my purchase of a new telescope.  Looking close up at craters of the moon, observing Saturn and it’s rings, spotting Jupiter and its moons made me feel like a kid all over again.  You can see some of my crude smartphone pictures of Saturn and Jupiter inserted in this post.  My astrophotography skills are still in their infancy.  But gazing out in my telescope at galaxies far, far away (thousands of light years) and nebulas and star clusters makes you think about the small part we play in this universe.  I like to watch meteor showers and observe those comets that have come out of deep space and zoom past us thanks to the gravity pull of our sun.  It’s amazing to think about the destruction that these comets can cause when colliding into a planet in our solar system, but equally amazing to think about the life giving elements that these comets possess.  There is a current NASA mission ongoing right now that will land on a comet in November 2014 and examine what elements lie inside these life giving masses of ice and rock.  It might answer a lot of questions about life while also creating more questions to be answered.

Jupiter 2011-10-14

Jupiter 2011-10-14

I find continuing exploration of our solar system and the entire universe to be critical in advancing our education in this country and around the world.   The most important thing I see in advances in astronomy and space exploration is that kids in the future can continue to fantasize about universe exploration and dream about what they can find and discover.  Our planet is just a very small part of this universe, but it takes all those planets, stars, galaxies and the binding space between them to make up our complex but astonishing universe.  Just like the people at GRAEF, it’s the individuals who combine their skills together to make it all come together and create a company that does astonishing and wonderful projects around the country to benefit all.