People sometimes ask me what the attraction of a space jump, a freefall from above the atmosphere, is.
Well… what they actually ask is ‘are you nuts?’
It's just you, the blackness, and the blue wall of planet Earth. You fall in utter silence, and there’s zero sense of motion – without air resistance so you can easily hit sound speed, but there’s no reference points to judge your speed against.
Earth's to far away, and there’s bugger all else.That’s the attraction. Either you get it or you don’t.
Well, that and the after party.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is: There’s usually nothing around you for tens of kilometres.
So the black rectangle spinning towards me was a surprise. 2001: A Space Odyssey flashed through my mind, but it was too squat, and anyway, what would those aliens want with me?
A piece of debris? That could be bad news: Something was broken, either on my suit or on the suborbital hopper I’d jumped from. Either way, I had to try and identify it.
The suit had a set of thrusters, a brief burst on which sent me over to the thing....
As I approached I couldn’t make out what it was. And then, as my gloved hand closed clumsily around it, it clicked: It was a wallet.
Drivers licence, bank card, member of a bowling team…. Mr Steve Sampson.The rest of the dive went smoothly. But, after I’d landed, some compulsion made me conceal the thing - I was waiting for the cameras to be revealed, the ‘XXXX practical joke show you’re on’ wagon to start rolling.
It never did.
The about two weeks later I saw that missing persons posters. I can’t say that I’ve slept well, ever since.
But at least one of the big questions now has an answer, for me at least. And I can only assume that, wherever Steve's been taken, he won't be going ten pin bowling.….