I had this action figure toy, “Big Jim”, a kind of Barbie for gender defined children. I did not like it too much. At least since my classmate C. — today an esteemed engineer in a big industry, then a 7/8 year old restless kid — showed me some interesting features of the original Barbie toy. He inherited a set of blond dolls from an older sister, and soon discovered that they had boobs. Not that I fully understood why he liked them (the boobs), but if he did — I was going to like those things too. I guess it came with the fact that C. had an older brother. And I did not.
So the idea to sacrifice my own Big Jim for a scientific experiment, did not make me too concerned. I saw in television some guy jumping with a parachute out of some airplane. It really impressed me. Was it really possible to fly like that? The first thing I had to do, was to manufacture a proper parachute: not too difficult, using a white handkerchief, and some shoe strings.
Jumping from the Lighthouse
However, all my tries to drop Big Jim and his parachute down from the window of my room did fail. I was living on the ground floor, and the parachute was never opening properly. I also tried to stand up on a chair. Eventually I came out with a brilliant idea: the lighthouse watching over the harbor. The tallest building I could imagine.
It took a while to convince my father to take me there for a visit. I guess it passed a couple of years, since I conceived my plan. When finally we went on top, Big Jim quickly slipped out of my pocket, directly to my hands. And in a less than a second, it was flying down the lighthouse with his parachute. I never saw it again. I am not even sure if the parachute opened. Maybe it worked, Big Jim survived, and it is now some 30 years that is waiting for me to come and pick him up.
X-38 Crew Return Vehicle
X-38 was an experimental Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) developed by NASA in late 90’s. The X-38 CRV never went over the prototype stage, the project being canceled in 2002 due to budget cuts. In principle, this wingless reentry vehicle was to be used in case of emergency to evacuate the crew for the International Space Station.
These amazing pictures describes some tests of the X-38 prototype: lifted to the sky with a nuclear bomber B-52, the X-38 was released from altitudes of up to 45,000 ft (13,700 m). The X-38 had no engines, and was supposed to glide from the space down to earth, eventually opening a parachute in the last part of its descent. Just like my Big Jim.