(Screenshot from music video "20 Minutes of Oxygen" by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)
Two companies have teamed up to design a special jet-powered pressure suit that will let its wearer skydive from the edge of space.
What would be the ultimate thrill, do you think? Diving to the ocean floor in a one-man submersible? Taking a death-defying wingsuit flight? Driving a stunt car with a lion on a vertical surface? Well, Solar System Express and Juxtopia laugh at your notions (but they probably don't, because they seem like lovely people).
Solar System Express chief technical officer Blaze Sanders in a Final Frontier suit.
(Credit: Solar System Express)
The two tech start-ups are in the process of designing the RL Mark VI (partly named in Major Robert Lawrence, the US' first African-American astronaut), a pressure suit that will enable the wearer to skydive from a height of 100 kilometres (62 miles) above the Earth — right on the Kármán line, which defines the boundary between Earth and space.
Compared to Iron Man's armour, the suit — which, according to plans, will be production ready in 2017 — will enable landing with aerospike engines attached to footwear instead of a parachute, letting the wearer land on their own feet — just like Iron Man's thruster boots. Of course, a parachute will be included as a failsafe.
The pressure suit, from Final Frontier Design, will incorporate wingsuit design and the boots gyroscopes in order to stabilise the diver's body and keep it oriented, with the controls built into the suit's gloves.
Juxtopia, which designs gadgets for "improving human performance", will supply the HUD goggles. Similar to Google Glass, but with a full display, the goggles will show the diver a range of information around the periphery of the helmet's window, such as heart rate, GPS location, internal and external temperatures, acceleration and speed and respiration. Although the ability to record video has not yet been integrated, they will respond to voice commands.
Of course, there are significant problems still to be solved, such as how to protect against the heat of re-entry, and respiratory problems that can be caused by higher altitudes. However, the team plans to start testing from a height of around 460 metres (1500 feet) next year, and the thruster boots in 2016. The cost, Solar System Express hopes, will be around US$20,000.
You can check out a CGI animation of what space skydiving might be like in the video below. So ... who wants to try it?