Recently a new theory is under discussion and it is about did Branson travelled to space? The scientists have given an explanation for the theory. On July 11, British businessman Richard Branson reached the edge of space, giving space tourism an official kick-start. But scientists and space enthusiasts are in doubt whether the height to which he travelled can be termed ‘space’ or not.
Virgin Galactic Reached a Cut-off Point
The most accepted boundary up-to an extent of space is known as the Kármán line, 100km above mean sea level. But the United States uses 80km as the cut-off point. Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight reached a height of 86km while Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flight is expected to go about 106km high.
The Space Area and Where Did Branson Exactly Travel
It has always been a tricky logic to understand where our atmosphere ends and what should be called space. American astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson told that he does not believe Branson’s flight can be termed as space travel, and that NASA was able to perform a similar sub-orbital flight about 60 years ago.
In 2009, researchers from the University of Calgary measured the winds of Earth’s atmosphere and the flow of charged particles in space and wrote that the edge of space begins at 118km above sea level.
Jonathan C McDowell from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics published a paper in 2018, revisiting the proposed definitions of the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. He noted that the Kármán line or “boundary was chosen as a nice round figure”, but it needs more studies from “a physical point of view”.
The Theory of Karman Line
The Kármán line has been compared to international waters, as there are no national boundaries and human laws in force beyond the line. It was named after aerospace pioneer Theodore von Kármán.
The pioneer, in his biography has written that-
“This is certainly a physical boundary, where aerodynamics stops and astronautics begins. Below this line, space belongs to each country. Above this level, there would be free space.”
Importance of Karman Line
Karman Line defines a legal boundary of what and where space is can help avoid disputes and keep track of space activities and human space travel.
Thomas Gangale, an expert on space law, told that now is the time to define what space truly is, because more and more commercial companies have plans to go to space.
He stated that-
“In the long-term, as we see more commercial operations in those altitudes, especially getting up into orbit and coming back, these private companies are going to want the legal certainty that would be provided by having a set altitude or limit.”
Atmosphere and It’s Layers
The Earth’s atmosphere has been divided into different layers, with the troposphere starting at the Earth’s surface and extending about 14.5 km high, stratosphere extending to 50 km, mesosphere to 85 km, and thermosphere to 600 kilometres and exosphere to 10,000 km.