Last week, the Virgin Galactic rocket plane SpaceShipTwo broke apart at more than 50,000 feet and crashed in the Mojave desert. One pilot died. But the other pilot lived. Now the question is: how the fuck did he do that?
The short answer is: we don't know yet, exactly. We do know, though, that the surviving pilot, Peter Siebold, somehow managed to eject from the plane as it broke up and parachuted to safety from nearly ten miles up in the sky. The LA Times today discusses just how insane his survival is (although in the context of "test pilots surviving crazy shit" it's hard to top the 1966 disaster of test pilot Bill Weaver, whose plane disintegrated around him at 78,000 feet, causing him to pass out and wake up strapped to his seat, but with no plane). Siebold was not wearing a space suit; he simply had to eject at great speed at a great height, where the air is too thin to even breathe. Which does not sound fun:
At almost twice the height of Mt. Everest, the air is dangerously thin and the temperature is about 70 degrees below zero...
Exactly when Siebold pulled his rip cord is unknown. He may have fallen freely for miles to exit the cold as fast as possible. Brown believes Siebold may not have deployed his parachute until well under 20,000 feet.
That is fucking hardcore man.
We salute you, Peter Siebold, and encourage you to find a safer line of work.