RedBull Stratos was just a (bad) publicity stunt, and that sucks.

RedBull Stratos was just a (bad) publicity stunt, and that sucks.

According to YouTube, eight million people watched Felix Baumgartner’s high altitude jump on Sunday morning. It was exciting and death-defying, but at the end of the day it was a just an elaborate publicity stunt that will likely see RedBull sales skyrocket this month. But I’d argue that the event wasn’t entirely a success from a publicity standpoint. RedBull, who sponsored the jump, wasted an incredible opportunity. It had an eight million person audience captivated, but did nothing to teach that audience about the context behind Baumgartner’s jump. Joe Kittinger’s 1960 jump was amazing, the heritage behind these types of tests is fascinating, but without any context the audience just saw a daredevil break a record for record-breaking’s sake.

I realize I sound like an irritated historian, but I also have a background (albeit a brief one) in publicity. Not taking advantage of an opportunity to teach eight million people a few awesome things about science is a terrible waste, from an historian’s standpoint and a public relation’s standpoint.

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I want one!

Tech

When you read about robotics and human assistance devices, the inception-to-commercial-reality arrow usually points from military or space-based research back to civilian applications, say in the health industry. Infrared ear thermometers? Thank stars. Artificial hearts? Rocket-engine turbo-pumps. Scratch-resistent lenses? Astronaut helmet visors.

But with X1, a robotic augmentation riff on NASA’s space-faring Robonaut, it sounds like technology that was originally designed to help paraplegics walk could be used by NASA to make astronauts stronger as well as maintain fitness during lengthy space sorties.

(MORE: Take Kinect, Add Robotics, Strap to a Human and Presto — Automatic Building Mapper!)

According to NASA’s Johnson Space Center:

X1 was initially designed as a human assist device to allow persons with paraplegia to walk again. Strategically designed motors allow for high torque applications such as stair climbing, while multiple points of adjustment allow for a wide range of users. We…

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