Using gravity, and beating it

Using gravity: US Air Force tandem jumpmaster and jumper, and photographer, at terminal velocity. (The line is to a drogue that stabilizes the tandem pair). Beating gravity: A Delta rocket at sunset, launching an Italian geospatial-information satellite from Vandenberg AFB, in June 2007. (Technically, of course, a satellite launch too uses gravity, according to equations worked out between the 1880s and 1930s independently by Tsiolkovskiy, Oberth and Goddard. The orbit is where the satellite’s inertia equalizes with gravity to hold it equidistant from Earth).

vandenburg jump070607-F-6439T-001

I’m reminded of an old Army recruiting poster that said: “When you jump, it;s just you.” Unless you’re in the Air Force or the SEALs… then it’s just you and the cameraman. He, he, he.

Yes, the photo embiggens quite nicely, with just a click. Launch photos are always striking, but this one is, as far as we know, unique.

Vandenberg is an important West Coast launch site used for everything from commercial launches like this to classified payloads and missile-defense tests.

Hat tip: Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog.

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