Stairway to Heaven: Another "Giant Leap" for Mankind

2012-10-18-diane_murphy2.jpgBy Diane Murphy
Diane Murphy leads Communications at Singularity University. She is President of the Aquarius Group, a Trustee of the X PRIZE Foundation and UCLA's Dashew International Center for Students and Scholars, and "CapCom" of the first private deep space telescope mission, the B612 Sentinel.

Earlier this week, Felix Baumgartner stepped into a spaceship-type capsule, suspended from a hot air balloon filled with helium, and over the next two and a half hours rose 24 miles on his self-described "mission to the edge of space." He climbed higher than any human had ever gone before and even higher than a jet airplane.

Then... he jumped off.

When he did, he broke three records we all now know about, two, more than 50 years old: highest manned balloon flight (128,000 feet); highest jump; fastest dive (833+ supersonic mph). He also established one new one: most watched video on YouTube - attracting more than 8 million simultaneous viewers.

But, what did we, the millions of people who watched the mission directly from the three HD video cameras implanted in Felix's suit, citizen explorers and scientists, learn from the jump? In addition to testing new high-tech materials and sensors for future spaceflight, why was this jump so important?


Aside from breaking three of humanity's most difficult records in one day, the Stratos Red Bull Mission can now sit comfortably alongside the flight of Spaceship One, winner of the Ansari X PRIZE, and the successful flights of the Space X Falcon 9 to the International Space Station, as proudly having broken records in the development of private spaceflight - proving that small groups of private entrepreneurs can now do the awe-inspiring missions previously only possible by governments. Felix's dive wasn't from space, but brings us steps closer to a future where the rest of us can experience what it is like to go safely to and from space at a price we can afford.

According to my friend and fellow X PRIZE Trustee, Richard Garriott de Cayeau, a well known game developer and bold explorer, son of NASA Astronaut Owen Garriott, and himself a private cosmonaut, who flew on the Russian Soyuz to the International Space Station, "we are living now in a new Golden Age of Exploration!"

"The previous age, which started and largely ended 40-60 years ago, saw many monumental feats. Humanity first orbited a satellite; then quickly advanced to walk on another world. We now regularly summit every high mountain and few frontiers seem unexplored. Yet, most of those grand expeditions often demanded the budgets of nation states!

Today, we are seeing that technology and innovation have reopened frontiers. Better yet, it no longer demands nation states. What the X PRIZE arguably began, is spreading like wildfire. James Cameron's journey to the deepest parts of the ocean. Felix's jump from the stratosphere. Bertrand Picard's upcoming Solar Impulse round the world flight. Soon private rovers on the moon. Bold new areas to explore are opening quickly for anyone who wants to be an explorer.

"On my own private terrestrial exploration, Richard continued, "I have discovered extremophile life forms and their unique proteins, of great use and value. An open source team just discovered the first planet known in a 4-sun system, just by parsing public data! We truly are in a New Golden Age of Exploration!

These private expeditions inspire youth around the world to dream about the day that they too will make their own dramatic jumps and discoveries and develop their own stairways to heaven - the ones they thought yesterday were impossible.

And, it's a lesson for big media, which no longer find it in their best interest to provide live coverage of these daring private missions. So, let's extend to them a challenge: Next time an incredible, daring and amazing entrepreneur steps into history and the future at the same time - maybe think twice before cutting away to a commercial.

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This material published courtesy of Singularity University.