Once we returned from the Underground Salt Museum to the surface world, Day Eight of our nine-day journey continued on the other end of Hutchinson at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. Our family has seen space-race paraphernalia in other museums such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (2003), Kennedy Space Center (2007), and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (2009), but the Cosmosphere competes in its own way, particularly with souvenirs from foreign contributors to the space race. Kansas seems like the last place on Earth you’d find a dedicated repository for cosmonaut relics, but there it was.
Despite the focus of Part One on Klingons extraordinaire Robert O’Reilly and J. G. Hertzler, they weren’t the only unforgettable personalities appearing at this year’s Starbase Indy convention. For Trek fans who’d attended previous cons (and therefore already had the chance to meet each Klingon warrior), the headliner would be Nicole DeBoer, making her first Indianapolis appearance. She’s known to us as Ezri Dax, a season-seven regular from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who had big shoes to fill when Terry Farrell’s Jadzia Dax exited the series.
In case you somehow missed it because of football games on TV: today Austrian skydiver and BASE-jumper Felix Baumgartner broke more than one world record by riding a balloon 128,000 feet into the outer reaches of what can still technically be called atmosphere, jumping out of his claustrophobic cockpit, free-falling at speeds exceeding Mach 1, and landing safely several minutes later on the correct planet and in one very relieved piece.
This was his view mere moments before taking one small step for sponsor Red Bull, and one giant leap for mankind:
Nothing I do for the rest of my life will ever be as cool as this. I think I’m getting ill just looking at this.
Temperatures outside the capsule were near zero Fahrenheit. Baumgartner and his beautiful balloon were upward bound for over 2½ hours before maxing out in the upper reaches of near-outer-space. He and Mission Control reviewed an exhaustive checklist of 30+ steps and checks before undertaking his epic plunge, not including what must have been an extensive, tortuous process to arrive at this historic moment in the first place. Cameras followed him as best they could every step of the way, and broadcast their viewpoints via live YouTube feed.
I imagine much of that footage should be reposted by hundreds of impressed YouTube users by the time I finish posting this. As of this minute, no such luck. Please hurry so everyone who missed it can see for themselves, fast-forward through the few quiet moments, and know what daredevil courage looks like in action.
* * * * *
Updated 4:30 p.m. EDT: video posted at last. Now that’s service!