The…exact altitude where space begins is something scientists have been debating since before we even sent the first spacecraft into orbit.
The true outer edge to the Earth’s atmosphere, or a reasonable candidate for it, is the magnetic shock front with the solar wind…earth’s topmost layer of atmosphere – somewhere between 62,000 miles and 120,000 miles above the surface of Earth.
The Kármán line is a generally accepted defined beginning of space, some 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.
Sixty two miles up in’t at all what I envision whenever I hear the news of “outer space”. That’s a thousand times lower than true space.
The Russians exactly what they were doing when they sent Sputnik where they sent it. As detailed in the previous post A Sun AND A Shield, 500 miles high is past the lower boundary of the Van Allen intense radiation belts covering the earth. Our knowledge that an American investigated cosmic radiation from earth and developed instruments to investigate it from space should automatically alert us that the Russians did also.
The Space Race had started long before the launch of Sputnik.
As World War II was coming to a close, Winston Churchill intensely lobbied America to engage in Operation Unthinkable – against Communist Russia to avoid the all-too Thinkable WWIII led by Communist Russia against the West. American General George Patton was all for it and outlined how the plan could be quickly achieved. Despite his stellar success in moving against Germany, Washington refused to engage. Their intelligence showed that “The facility the Russian have shown in the development and improvement of existing weapons and equipment and in their mass production has been very striking.”
The Soviet launch of the first Sputnik satellite was one accomplishment in a string of technological successes. Few in the United States had anticipated it, and even those wo did were not aware of just how impressive it would be. At 184 pounds, the Russian satellite was much heavier than anything the United States was developing at the time, and its successful launch was quickly followed by the launch of two additional satellites, including one that carried a dog into space. Together, these orbited the earth every 90-minutes and created fear that the United States lagged far behind in technological capability. These concerns were compounded when the United States learned that the Soviet Union also tested the first intercontinental ballistic missile that year…
President Dwight Eisenhower…poured additional funds and resources into the space program in an effort to catch up….in December of 1957 its first artificial satellite, named Vanguard, exploded on the launch pad, serving as a very visible reminder of how much the country had yet to accomplish to be able to compete militarily with the Soviets. At last, on January 31, 1958, the United States succeeded in launching its first satellite, the Explorer.
It was the first spacecraft to detect the Van Allen radiation belt.
Be serious. There is no question that the Russians had first pick of Nazi rocket science, and that the Russians as much as the Westerners were investigating the blanket of intense radiation covering the earth, by whatever name each party called it.
The very first launches of satellites were sent to investigate the radiation belts.
“Subsequent missions have observed parts of the belts…from below”
For a good reason. No technology had been developed to shield satellites from the intense radiation.
Scientists have puzzled over Earth’s radiation belts since they were discovered in 1958 based on data from NASA’s Explorer 1 spacecraft, its first mission. But for decades, spacecraft observations were limited to brief forays because the region is so hazardous…
“no one actually dared to send a spacecraft,” Nelli Mosavi, project manager for the Van Allen Probes at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told Space.com. “The legacy [of the V A Probes] is the resilient spacecraft we built [looong after the late 1960’s] to withstand these environments that no one else could have gone to.”
Radiation is also a key threat to astronauts living and working on the International Space Station, [located 350 miles above earth, just below the inner belt] and protecting humans from the dangers of radiation is one of the most important challenges NASA will need to tackle as it looks to expand human exploration of space.
the Van Allen Probes…revealed that…the belts can fluctuate from [two to] three thinner belts to one massive one…in just seconds.
But despite full knowledge of the dangers of massive amounts of radioactive fallout being dumped into the open atmosphere, as soon as the atomic bomb was developed, 36 of them were exploded at this level of our atmosphere.
The official reason given was to “test and develop” atomic weapons. While undoubtedly this was happening, it doesn’t eliminate other co-occurring projects. The secrecy and various disparate government explanations during a frenzied Space Race with Russia leads to the reasonable consideration that the development of bigger and bigger atomic bombs was as much the latest effort to break through the firmament to reach unto heaven as it was weapons development to win WWIII.
This consideration is supported by the extravagant bombs used by both Russia and the US on “research” rather than in war.
In 1961, the Soviet Union tested a nuclear bomb so powerful that it would have been too big to use in war…
The most powerful nuclear weapon…too big to fit inside even the largest aircraft…
[Exploded at 2.5 miles high, well below the biblical firmament / 2nd scientifically designated atmospheric layer] the bomb created a fireball five miles wide [in all directions, so reaching the lower edge of the firmament]. The fireball pulsed upwards from the force of its own shockwave. [So even more force against the firmament.] The flash could be seen from 1,000km (630 miles) away.
The bomb’s mushroom cloud soared to 64km (40 miles into the stratosphere) high, with its cap spreading outwards until it stretched nearly 100km (63 miles) from end to end…
(34 miles) from Ground Zero, all houses were completely destroyed…hundreds of miles from the blast zone, damage of all kinds – houses collapsing, roofs falling in, damage to doors, windows shattering – were reported. Radio communications were disrupted for more than an hour…
Tsar Bomba unleashed almost unbelievable energy – now widely agreed to be in the order of 57 megatons, or 57 million tons of TNT. That is more than 1,500 times that of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined, and 10 times more powerful than all the munitions expended during World War Two. Sensors registered the bomb’s blast wave orbiting the Earth not once, not twice, but three times.
Its explosion equaled 50 megatonnes of TNT, and ripples from its test explosion could be felt all around the world…3,300 times stronger than [the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs of 1945] the Tsar bomb…is considered the strongest sound every produced by mankind.
the [Tsar Bomba] test [in 1961]…was 20% of the size of every atmospheric test combined before it…
on November 4, 1962, the United States conducted its final atmospheric test of a thermonuclear weapon…part of a larger series of high-altitude atomic-weapons tests conducted between June and November of that year…called Operation Fishbowl...
the United States had detonated close to 300 nuclear weapons at various sites…
Starfish Prime…The 1.4 megaton bomb [necessarily weighing much less than Russia’s 57 megatons in order to be rocketed higher] —which was sent skyward via a Thor [noted for his hammer] missile, and detonated at an altitude of about 250 miles / 400 km [in the exosphere, the highest layer of the firmament] …yielded an electromagnetic pulse so large, it damaged streetlights, telephone lines and other electronic devices some 900 miles away in Hawaii…It also left a radiation belt in its wake that was so substantial, it crippled multiple American and British satellites and caught the attention of administrators at NASA, who became concerned about its potential effects on the space vehicles and astronauts then participating in programs such as Apollo.
“The sky lit up like it was noon…But the air was eerily silent. “We didn’t hear anything,” Spriggs says. “It’s outer space, meaning there is no air up there, and, therefore, no shock wave that is produced.”
the blast—a 1.4 megaton bomb,500 times as powerful as the one that fell on Hiroshima—was not subtle…
“It looked as though the heavens had belched forth a new sun that…set the sky on fire…”
The following year, the U.S., the U.K., and the U.S.S.R. signed the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and outer space has been H-bomb free for almost 60 years.
But not before the Soviets exploded three similar-sized bombs just above Earth’s atmosphere three months later. All these bomb blasts combined “altered the inner Van Allen belt dramatically.”
It appears that these bombs did in fact achieve their goals of blasting a hole in the upper edge of the atmosphere at the lower edge of the firmament.
But did this open access through the Van Allen Belts for humans to access the real outer space?
I don’t think so.
Another long-lived NASA mission has come to an end [in 2019], this one after more than seven years of dancing through the perilous belts of radiation around Earth.
the Van Allen Probes transformed our understanding of the particle radiation environment close to Earthduring their seven-year mission, notably showing how quickly it swings from tepid to extreme…
High-energy electrons, protons and cosmic rays break down solar cells, discolor camera lens glass and coatings, degrade insulation materials, and fry electronics…
“Radiation affects pretty much every part of a spacecraft in one way or another…”
But we still know little about how the whole slew of charged particles in space interact with spacecraft because the radiation environment can change quickly and randomly, and the drivers that cause those changes are complex, mostly unpredictable and impossible to simulate perfectly.
“There’s just no facility on Earth that has anywhere near the ability to reproduce the range of particles and radiation intensities that we have in space,” Turner said.
Until the Large Hadron Collider, that is, conceived in the early 1980’s, construction begun in 1998, up and running in 2008.
In 2012 the Large Hadron Collider discovered the Higgs boson, popularly called the God particle, the physical proof of an invisible, universe-wide field that gives mass to all matter. “There’s no understating the significance” of this discovery.
One goal is frankly stated – gaining control over the barrier reef of the Van Allen Belts’ radiation.
It’s vital to do so, the researchers said.
Stephen Hawking says the ‘God Particle’ that scientists believe created the world could actually end it, too.
The particle — know as Higgs boson — “has the worrisome feature” that it could become unstable at extremely high energies and create a “black hole”…the legendary British physicist has warned in a new book titled Starmus, according to the Daily Express.
“This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming,” Hawking claimed in the book.
So of all the different definitions of where outer space begins, why so very low so close to earth?
To answer questions such as ‘how many astronauts have flown in space?’or ‘how many European Space Agency rockets have reached space?’, we need to adopt a definition of space…
Ahh! So it’s completely artificial! It’s designed to enhance the reputation of the nations who can claim they’ve gone into “outer” space!
There have been objections (particularly in the United States) to defining any legal boundary of space on the grounds that it could cause disputes about airspace violations below the boundary, or that too high a boundary could inhibit future space activities…
the USAF considered all X-15 flights above 80 km as astronautical flights and gave those pilots astronaut wings….as described in Life Magazine (Aug 3 1962):
“Major Bob White of the US Air Force is the nation’s newest space hero. […] He has […] a brand-new award on his chest that makes him a member of the nation’s most exclusive club. It was a special set of pilot’s wings that signified he had flown higher than 50 miles above the earth and thereby had qualified as a spaceman.“
The 100 km Karman line has gained ascendancy as the most commonly used boundary. The bar was set to this height by the private enterprise winner of the $10 million Ansari X-Prize SpaceShipOne,developed for space tourism.
So how far up into this artificially designated “outer” space has any nation actually reached?
In 1944 a German V2 rocket reached the greatest height of rockets developed so far – 100 kilometers / 62 miles.
Thirteen years later in 1957 the Russians became famous for exceeding that limit when, using their new and improved version of the German V2 rocket, they lobbed the first satellite – any object designed to stay in space – 500 miles up. It stayed there for 21 days before degrading and falling back onto earth.