Krulwich Wonders...
7:27 am
Sat March 24, 2012

Weekend Special: What It's Like To Soar Into Space, Then Crash To Earth

Originally published on Sat March 24, 2012 5:59 am

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be hurled into the sky, straight up, past the clouds, into starry space, the Earth all blue and turning spherical below, everything silent, tomblike, and then, just like that — you slip and start to fall? What would it sound like? Look like?

As you drop, you wobble, twist, turn, tumble, when you hit the atmosphere, you feel the air, it heats you, steams you, there's the whistle of it, then the roar; you are dropping helplessly toward the clouds below, then, whoosh! Four parachutes open above you and you sail down to the sea.

Well, this video shows all that. And it's totally real. (Well, almost totally. What you see actually happened. It's NASA footage, but the sound is "designed" by the extraordinary folks at Skywalker Sound, so reality has been enhanced, but so subtly I can't tell you how.)

Plus there's this crazy bonus. The main character in this video is a booster rocket, a cylinder of fuel.

This cylinder's job is to lift a giant rocket into space. When it's done pumping, it is ejected; in other words, it is supposed to fall back to Earth. That's the plan, and the cool thing is, it has a companion.

Another booster, on the other side of the rocket is ejected too, so this is the story of two cylinders falling, a Romeo and Juliet of Descent, if you will, and the best part, the part that made me gasp, is that when our hero, Booster Number One, hits the ocean and disappears below the surface and then bobs up again, and is now floating somewhere in the vastness of the sea, if you look closely, about ten seconds later (at the very end of the video), its mate, the other cylinder, lands very close by — I have no idea how they did that. So you know that one day, they are going to get back together, get refueled and do this all again.

If you've ever wanted to see a Heavy Metal Love Story, this is the one.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.