Diving into and out of the sky

By Phil Plait | June 11, 2010 9:15 am

After I posted the amazing picture of the Shuttle launch and the F-15E fighter jet last week, I got a nice email from Peter Hugosson-Miller, an avid skydiver. He and some friends went jumping over Florida one day a few years back… in fact, it was on April 24, 1990. If that date sounds familiar, then maybe the picture he sent me will jog your memory:


In the foreground are Peter and his jump-buddies, and in the background is the Space Shuttle Discovery launching the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit!

How freaking cool is that?

The picture was taken by Van Wideman, and just slays me. I remember what I was doing on that very day — getting ready to start my PhD work using that telescope, an adventure that would last for ten years. At the time, though, it sure felt like jumping out of an airplane…

The final launch of Discovery is scheduled for September 16, 2010.

Picture credit: Van Wideman, scanned by Peter Hugosson-Miller, touched up a bit by me to clean up blemishes and adjust contrast. Used with permission.

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Hubble picture of the week
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (39)

Links to this Post

  1. Historic shuttle launch photos « Open Parachute | June 13, 2010
  2. blast off! | BIG THINGS | July 7, 2011
  1. Sir Eccles

    As long as the camera man’s first thought wasn’t “ok guys we’re going to have to do that again, something in the background ruined the shot”

  2. Pi-needles

    How freaking cool is that?

    *VERY* 8)

  3. Would’ve been cool if the shot lined up so the shuttle appeared to be going through the hole of the diver circle.

  4. The guy in the circle who’s facing away from the shuttle was probably looking at all the other guys pointing his direction and oohing an ahhing. He probably thought he was doing something very cool and the others were really impressed with him. Only upon landing did he figure it out. D’oh!

  5. Bubba

    Way. Too. Cool.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    kuhnigget, let’s hope the ring was rotating.

    Or maybe not, bet that formation was hard to keep after the launch! [In fact, I see a break.]

  7. Messier Tidy Upper

    How close to the shuttle launch were they?

    That’s one jaw-droppingly spectacularly AWESOME photo (albeit old) but I’m surprised it was possible to take it given the restrictions on airspace present for NASA launches. Although I guess the rising Discovery would have been super-luminously visible over a very lo-ong distance indeed. :-)

    Yegods, I’ll miss those Shuttles when they’re gone. :-(

  8. Massively awesome!

    Was it planned do you think, or just a marvelous coincidence?

  9. On closer look, it appears that they are all facing the launch. My guess is planned. If not, that was quick work on the part of the divers/photographer to get lined up right.

  10. bouch

    Messier Tidy Upper (8). I don’t have the answer, but I watched one shuttle launch from Cocoa Beach, and my friends watched the same one from Orlando, so you can see it easily from pretty damn far away…

    I think I had a better view ūüėČ

  11. Smalls
  12. That is pretty amazing. Really freaking amazing, actually.

  13. John

    It also appears that the jumpers are in violation of FAA regulations part 105, section 17 (jumping through clouds) flight visibility requirements.

  14. Firemancarl

    @#8 & #11

    The same holds true for those of us in the Daytona Beach area, they look very close and are a sight to behold. I will miss them when the program ends.

  15. Teshi

    Well now that’s an incredible photo to have kicking around.

  16. come on, who hasn’t done this?

  17. Chris Winter

    Todd W. wrote: “On closer look, it appears that they are all facing the launch.”

    I don’t see that. In any case, if they could form that ring, they were skilled enough to break and re-form it so all could get a view of Discovery. Let’s hope they had time.

  18. Dr BA, I think you’re a bit out of date with the Shuttle launch manifest. They’re discussing pushing the last launch to February 24th 2011 now. It’s all in flux anyway. More EVAs, more experiments on board. Also, the AMS magnet change is going well, so it could very well be launched as the second to last shuttle flight now. I saw all this on nasaspaceflight.com.

  19. @Chris Winter

    It’s hard to tell due to the poor illumination of the figures, angle and possible effects of the camera.

  20. Stargazer

    Amazing stuff. Imagine having that to show your friends and grandchildren.

  21. Sarah

    @John #14 :
    Flight visibility in Florida can fool you. With a lot of humidity you can see down a lot better than horizontally. It does look like they were about to go through a cloud deck, but it’s not necessarily the case.

  22. John

    This shot was taken when I was working in the parachute industry in FL (2006). Altitude 10,000 feet, 50 miles from the Cape. Now I work at the Cape on parachutes that recover the boosters.


  23. squirrelelite

    Those are all great, but I especially like John’s.

    You can tell it’s OK from the distance, but the angle makes it look like it might go right through the parachute!

    It must take some special effort and a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time to catch one of those shots.

    Way to go!

  24. Matt T

    Worst time evah to get on the ground and discover you forgot to load film.

    (Remember back then when you had to load film in cameras…?)

  25. Timmo

    Please replace the beloved space shuttle with a vril machine!

  26. @matt
    it’s will be worst when you forget to open the camera cover ūüėÄ

  27. John

    @Sarah #22

    I have been flying out of Deland Fl since 1968 (a major parachute center) and have almost hit several jumpers at various times one even passed in front of my plane by about 50 feet. I can tell you from personal experience that some of the jumpers there are reckless and pose a danger to others in the air. I have been witness to two deaths of jumpers there so far!

  28. Eric

    I’ve been driving for decades and have almost hit several pedestrians at various times one even passed right in front of my car by about 5 feet.

    I can tell you from personal experience that some *people* are reckless and post a danger to other; there’s nothing special about skydivers in that regard.
    I can also tell you that most skydivers are always thinking about safety, often checking and double-checking their plans and equipment on each jump, and working to ensure that they can enjoy themselves in a risky activity *without* getting hurt.

  29. 14. John Says: “It appears that the jumpers are in violation of FAA regulations part 105, section 17 (jumping through clouds) flight visibility requirements.”

    I was wondering about that. Those of us in the rocketry hobby are regulated by FAR part 101 and we have that same restriction in reverse, i.e. it’s illegal to launch into clouds. Who knows, there might be ski divers in them!

    – Jack

  30. Now that is REALLY cool! Surprised they were allowed planes so close to a launch pad!

  31. Awesome , and great comments .

  32. Keith Haley

    Way Cool … wish I could have been in the picture either on the shuttle or be skydiving.

  33. John

    @Jack #32

    Ah, another rocketeer. Don’t have the time anymore to persue the hobby. I love the shuttle launches but nothing and I mean NOTHING ever came close to the Saturn 5 launches.

  34. drow

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