Gliding high into the earth’s stratosphere

Published 9:37 am Saturday, September 7, 2019

How would you like to ride a glider to 90,000 feet? This glider project was started by Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson.

On Aug. 29, 2006, they established a glider record altitude of 50,671 feet. Since then, it has been through many sponsors. The latest one is the Airbus company who seems to have the will and the money to finance glider, Perlan 2.

It is in Argentina, trying to set this new record this season. Last year, they established a new record altitude for a glider of 76,124 feet. It is a pressurized glider, of course, since at that altitude the air is too low in oxygen partial pressure to breathe. This is in the stratosphere which is above most all of the weather and all the airliner routes.

Email newsletter signup

To review how they expect to get there, at this particular time of the year in the southern hemisphere, there is a mountain wave of wind that can carry them up several thousand feet beyond the capability of their tow plane which takes the glider up to an altitude of 42,000 feet.

Then, they have to find the polar vortex, which can propel them up into the stratosphere.

Their goal this year is to reach 90,000 feet. In previous vortexes, they have experienced a lift in excess of 1,000 feet per minute. There have been air-breathing jets that have exceeded the glider record. For example. the SR-71 has reached 85,000 feet. A Russian MiG 25 has exceeded 123,000 feet.

This year, the Perlan 2 has only been flown out at low altitudes to check all the controls.

When it flies again at high altitude, you can ride along by googling “Perlan 2.” This allows access to the camera in the Perlan 2 cabin with the same view of the earth and instruments that the pilot has.

Are you concerned about asteroid collisions?

If the astronomers are correct, the next close encounter will be on April 13, 2029, just 10 years from now. The name is Apophis and is about 1,200 feet in diameter.

NASA seems to be serious about looking for asteroids that have the potential to hit the earth.

They have provided funds in the amount of $19 million for the Puerto Rico’s huge radio telescope, called Arecibo, to search for asteroids that might pose a threat to the earth. Evidence points to the extinction of the dinosaurs and 75 percent of animals and plants that was caused by an asteroid collision 66 million years ago.

It is estimated that this asteroid that created the crater near Chicxulub in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico was six to nine miles in diameter.

It released a billion times more energy than both the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. That scares me and I am fearless.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Elon Musk is concerned about one hitting the earth and wiping out humanity.

That is one reason he wants to colonize Mars. He is trying to come up with ideas to make Mars habitable for humans by creating an atmosphere and adding mirrors to concentrate the sun’s radiation to the surface.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at