I’VE NEVER had the experience of going supersonic, but have recently been considering two of the less usual methods of doing so. Given the chance, I’m not sure which I’d have a go at first.
The simple method is that chosen by Austrian adventurer Felix Baumgartner, who had me literally on the edge of my seat when he put himself on the edge of his capsule, itself at the edge of space. I’ve been quietly following progress on the Red Bull project for about three years now, and almost feel like I know the man personally. When the long-range camera showed him tumbling in an uncontrolled manner in the early part of his descent, while travelling at supersonic velocity, I genuinely thought it might all go horribly wrong.
His happy landing was therefore quite a relief – no doubt also to him. With his support crew he has pushed back the boundaries of scientific knowledge, and the fact that it was sponsored by a commercial company and made such compelling viewing does nothing to diminish the value of the achievement.
In contrast, yesterday I had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Bloodhound SSC supersonic car project. In what must surely be the last great challenge of the century-old quest for the ultimate land speed record, this vast double-engined vehicle will attempt to surpass 1000mph, or about Mach 1.3. On land.
There are many similarities between these two supersonic record bids, both of which are at the cutting edge of science and engineering. One major difference is that the Baumgartner’s freefall record was sponsored commercially, by a soft drinks company, while the Bloodhound is sponsored by a consortium including private companies and universities, but also publicly funded bodies like the Army, Royal Air Force, and EPSRC. In these days of austerity, it isn’t immediately obvious why that should be.
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Biological Sample Concentrators & Freeze Dryers
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