Saturday, March 23, 2013

POLL: What is a Space Traveler?


What is a "Space Traveler" ?
  • A Government-sponsored astronaut or cosmonaut.
  • Plus an X-15 pilot who reached "space" (62 miles or 100km) ?
  • Plus a commercial traveler who reached "space" sub-orbitally
  • Anyone who has been above 50 mile mark

Please note: if Poll Widget throws an error, just use back button to try again :)
Also - You can check more than one box.

Quite a quandary for me, recently. Each time the Shuttle or Soyuz rocket launched in the past few years, I have tweeted if any rookies were aboard. I've been counting all the "Space Travelers" for years now, and would generally let folks know how many new men and women braved the black!

Now, however, I'm realizing my count may be inaccurate, but it depends on whether one is using the aviation definition of space, NASA's definition of space, or the modern scientific consensus on where space begins?

How High Is Space Chart

For my count on the Astronaut / Cosmonaut Birth Places Map, I tallied all the people who flew official missions for government agencies.  I included the handful of "space tourists" because each had been trained or sponsored by those agencies.

The annals of history show us that the "line" where Earth sky ends and SPACE begins has been debated in terms of the biospheric corona, and we may need to include some of the very early pioneers (X-15 test pilots) as well as the most modern pioneers (Sub-orbital plane passengers).

NASA awards "astronaut" status for flights above 50 miles. However, "Space" is said to begin at least 62 miles up, or 100 kilometers even.  Despite not being on official "missions", Joe Walker set the first altitude record for winged flight, topping 107 kilometers. Then, he set the second.

Test Pilot Joe Walker
Test Pilot Joe Walker, first man to reach space twice

A further 7 pilots in the X-15 program flew higiher than NASA's mark of 50 miles.  So... are they astronauts?  Or are we only space travelers if we break the 100km / 62 mile-mark?

In 2004, Mike Melvill flew Mojave Aerospace Venture's "SpaceShipOne" above 100 kilometers.  He became what some call the "first commercial astronaut". Six days later, Brian Binnie flew to 107-112 kilometers (debated), becoming the second.

These were new record for non-government, non-orbital aircraft, and they won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for the accomplishments Both men reached the required altitude height to be awarded astronaut status... but...

Mike Melvill Joe Binnie
Binnie & Melvill... Space Travelers or just High Flyers?

Are all astronauts created equal? Do we consider them to be "Space Travelers" alongside famed agency heavyweights like Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, or any others who have performed orbits and/or trips to the Moon? Should we include them in the "overall" count of humans in the great beyond?

Please feel free to vote or weigh in with an opinion in the COMMENTS section below.


Jonathan McDowell said...

I'm currently writing a paper about this very subject - if you actually calculate the VK line, it's not really 100 km. And physically 80 km (50 mi) makes much more sense, roughly the mesopause

PillowNaut said...

LOL, I desperately tried to avoid mentioning the Kármán line, due to the controversy about that as well, but I guess it's inevitable.

Overall, I am not quibbling about "Where space begins" because that can be different every day, even every hour, in terms of mesospheric and thermospheric conditions. Thanks for voting though, what I really want to know is how people think we should define human travel to certain levels?

I've even wondered if we should have an entirely DIFFERENT name for people who have gone to or around the MOON, etc. :)

Norman Copeland. said...

Count the water honey...

Jefferson Starship / Nothing's gonna stop us now

Mat Morrisroe said...

This is a really interesting question. Especially as Baumgartner's jump being labelled a 'space jump' has been irritating me for months :)

I guess I've always thought it was getting to an orbit altitude or beyond but that's just an assumption I've carried around for years.

PillowNaut said...

Thanks for weighing in! Baumgartner irritated me a little, too. Had a conversation about him with someone who also kept a "log" of space travelers in the same way I keep a map. We never considered his stunt. Brave, but not astronautic. But, the problem with considering "orbit" an astronaut category is that if we make that the cutoff, we lose both Shepard & Grissom. The first two Mercury flights were suborbital -- it wasn't until Glenn that Yuri was matched. I'd hate to lose two early pioneers... it's thorny!

Norman Copeland. said...

S phase being the operative

Happy semana!!!

Oleta Adams / Get here