October 13, 2021
This morning Blue Origin had a successful second flight to space with civilians. The Jeff Bezos owned company this time included William Shatner, who at age 90 became the oldest person to space. He also represents decades of science fiction in his role as Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek.
Also on this flight was Maryland native Audrey Powers. She graduated from Mount De Sales Academy in Catonsville in 1994. She has previously worked for NASA and is now VP of Blue Origin.
When he returned, after only an 11 minute flight, Shatner was truly emotional. He remarked at the color blue, and how thin it seemed before entering the vastness and deep blackness of space. We’ve seen photos and videos, but truly being there must have been magnificent.
Technically, they barely reached ‘space’ with a flight altitude of 66 miles above the ground. The Kármán Line is the international standard for the edge of space at 62 miles, or 100 Km. But our atmosphere extends farther as shown below.
Watching this reminded me of this famous depiction of our planet by Dr. Adam Nieman in 2003. He won The Novartis/Daily Telegraph Visions of Science photo competition for this view of the size of Earth next to what the compressed size of all the surface water and air in our atmosphere. This was his concept, illustrated by Félix Pharand-Deschênes.
Water covers 70% of our planet, but if gathered into a sphere it would less than 870 miles across. See the break down of salt vs. fresh water at the bottom of this post.
Air would weigh 5140 tons, and in a sphere at sea level density would be slightly larger that the area water covers.
We are on this amazing planet that supports life, and have yet to find another like it. But the size and layers is what often amazes people. This is taught in Earth Science classes and one of the first things I learned when embarking on my study of the atmosphere.
Note: There is a transition or ‘pause’ between the layers. So the heights below have space separating the core layers.
The weather portion of our atmosphere is only about 7 miles deep. Yes, most weather occurs under 35,000 Ft, where most commercial flights cruise.
About 75% of the density of Earth’s atmosphere is in this layer. The other layers are larger in area/depth, but much thinner air density.
The Ozone Layer is is between 10 and 25 miles up, which is the layer for our protection from harmful UV rays.
About 31 to 53 miles up.
This is a very cold layer and where many meteors begin to encounter friction and start burning.
The Kármán Line is considered the edge of space at 62 miles, or 100 Km.
Blue Origin Flight Altitude: About 66 Miles
This goes up to 372 miles high.
This is a hot layer of the atmosphere, getting direct radiation from the sun. However, the air is so thin, you would not feel it if you were outside there. The low air pressure would make it impossible to survive.
All the worlds water from USGS. Click the image for more information.
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