Science pushes back

Science knows how to push back.

In the irrational exuberance that followed Sunday’s daredevil jump from 24 miles above New Mexico and Texas, Americans were a little too scientifically challenged in stating the significance of the event.

Like this Facebook favorite, for example.


For the most part, the world of science has been relatively quiet but enough is enough.

Writing on the Discover Magazine website, freelance space writer Amy Shira Teitel reveals why the jump wasn’t everything you might think it is and less…

It was touted as being a jump from space, but 24 miles isn’t space. There’s no clear limit where the atmosphere ends and space begins, but the general consensus is that it’s around the 62 mile mark. NASA, which was established to run the space game in 1958, has awarded astronaut wings to pilots who’ve flown higher than 50 miles. Calling the Stratos event a jump from space is just not true (widely known as “#spacejump” on Twitter); unfortunately, with eight million people watching, those eight million people now have a mistaken idea about space.

This was far from the only misinformation associated with the event. Red Bull did a terrible job at presenting Kittinger’s 1960 jump. A real shame, especially since Kittinger was the person directly in touch with Baumgartner during his fall (his capsule communicator, or “capcom”).

“I have to wonder how much we’re gaining if the public is excited by space exploration but doesn’t understand the technology behind it or why it matters,” Teitel says.