Russian test pilot says a man can jump from space without parachute

Test pilot Air Force Colonel Magomed Tolboyev, Hero of Russia, has proposed a project by which a man can jump from outer space without a parachute. Speaking before journalists on Thursday, he said he was ready to make this jump himself.

"But," he added to this correspondent, "this jump must be preceded by a series of preliminary studies involving a human mock-up".

As the first stage, believes Tolboyev, a mock-up with sensors must be dropped from an air balloon from an altitude of 1 kilometre. Then from a stratosphere balloon -- an altitude of 40-50 kilometres. After the results are analysed Tolboyev is ready to repeat these jumps himself.

They will break all records, Tolboyev said. It is only after such preliminary jumps without a parachute that he is prepared to make a similar jump from a spaceship or the space station. "This is the main objective of my project," he said.

In a RIA Novosti interview the 50-year-old pilot remarked that Russia has for the first time in the world developed an "inflatable braking device" /IBD/ with the status of an invention. All jumps are planned with the help of this device.

"It is fastened as a backpack and at the required moment unfolds like a shuttlecock to make the fall oriented and to guarantee cushioned landing," Tolboyev specified.

The IBD was tested in 2000-2001 when more valuable payloads had to be retrieved from Mir before its sinking. "The first drop was 20 kilogrammes and the second 200 kilogrammes, both showing the dependable operation of the invention: the landing left no scratches on the payloads. This was not reported in the press at that time," he added.

According to Tolboyev, the cost of the space project would be 2 million dollars, and jumps from the air and stratosphere balloons 50,000 to 100,000 dollars.

The pilot is confident of the project's feasibility, although he admits a man wearing a spacesuit with the device on his back would have to enter the upper atmosphere at a speed of more than 8 kilometres a second.

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