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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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What It's Like To Drop 150,000 Feet Straight Down

Jul 29, 2013
Originally published on July 29, 2013 1:55 pm

If I say "meet me 28 miles from here," that doesn't seem very far, right? You could take a taxi, a bus; if pushed you might even make it on a bike.

But what if the 28 miles is not on a road or a highway, but straight up, 150,000 feet — that's high. So high, we're out of the life zone. Up in the silence.

This video, created by NASA and sound designed by the amazing folks at Skywalker Sound, lets you rise those 150,000 feet on a solid rocket booster, and then, after helping the space shuttle shoot into orbit, you (and the booster) tumble straight back to Earth.

It's about two minutes up, then four minutes down, starting in lazy loops through the empty (except for the metal groaning) upper atmosphere; then the Earth's surface swings with the arc of our fall, the atmosphere thickens, you hear wind, see inky, smoky moments, bursts of flame, winds start whistling by, groaning gets louder, clouds appear below like distant pillows, which we swoosh through and, after ejecting something, there's a snap, parachutes suddenly appear and we drop, then splash into, under and out of the sea, only to watch something else toppling out of the sky nearby.

I've seen rocket launchings before, but this is special. It's the sound, I guess. Everything is so much more vivid. Clearly, the best way to fall from the sky is to do it with ears wide open.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.