Saturday, January 23, 2016

Breaching the Karman Line

"Watching the films of both times this very innovative rocket has crossed the Karman Line and returned leaves me with nothing short of wonderment"

If you are a space nerd, yesterday was a huge day. And I repeat, only if you are a space nerd. I have been one of sorts ever since I was a boy. Growing up by the border of Robbinsdale and Minneapolis gave me the opportunity to have a neighbor who taught astronomy at the University of Minnesota. And in his back yard, he built a huge telescope. Yes, with city lights and everything, he built and used this monster telescope. And on occasion, he would invite this young boy (me) to come over and join him to view wonderful things in the heavens. 

If the professor, my old neighbor was still with us, I know he would have thought what happened yesterday to be amazing. Thanks to Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, we are now developing reusable rockets to go into space and back again. Yesterday, Jeff Bezo's rocket, the Blue Origin, made it past the Karman Line and safely back again - for the second time!

First a refresher for some who have never heard of the Karman Line. It is the altitude which is universally accepted as the point where you leave Earth's atmosphere and reach outer space. That point was discovered and named after a Hungarian-American physicist named Theodore von Karman a long time ago. And it is way up there. About 62 miles. 

The Blue Origin made it up to a bit over 333,000 feet yesterday. That is enough to cross the Karman Line. Then it returned safely. For the second time. Some might say "So what?" The "so what" to this accomplishment is developing reusable rockets will really put outer space right next door, rather than "out there" someplace. It will usher in a whole new dimension of space travel. The Karman Line, rather than being an obstacle, will just be another way point in our travels.

So even though Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have competing designs for basically the same concept, there will be no losers. In fact, we all win. Yes, there will be some failures. But every time there is a failure, we will learn something. And as time goes on, the successes will far outnumber the failures.

Even though these successful launches and returns will not get the press they should get, the nerd in me will probably follow them. Besides the technology, what I find exciting are the two men who are driving this technology. They are modern day Captains of Industry. Hard driving, aggressive, and results oriented. They will make this next step in space happen. And fast.

So buckle up fellow space nerds. The future is right around the corner. And it is going to be quite a ride!  


  1. I hope folks will see the possibility of using a high speed rail/tunnel up a mountain as the "first stage" for these soon... the time and money saved and increased safety and cargo factors are worth it!

  2. Great article as usual, Larry. You educate, inform, and enlighten, and those are all things desperately needed right now.

    It is also noteworthy to point out that capitalists have achieved this great accomplishment, as opposed to government agencies. The more our economy transitions to a socialist economy (as it is now), the less likely we are to accomplish great things such as this.