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How aerodynamics saved chute-less skydiver

Skydiver Luke Aikins descends. (Credit: Mondelez International / Fox / Stride Gum via Tumblr)
Skydiver Luke Aikins descends. (Credit: Mondelez International / Fox / Stride Gum via Tumblr)

Kids, don’t try this at home: Veteran skydiver Luke Aikins made an amazing injury-free landing without a parachute on national television on July 30 – thanks to decades of experience, two years of planning, a bouncy 100-by-100-foot net, and the realities of aerodynamics.

The 42-year-old Aikins leaped out of an airplane at 25,000 feet, maneuvered himself in midair during his two-minute descent to head for the target zone set up at the Big Sky movie ranch in California’s Simi Valley, and flipped over at the last second to slam into the net at about 120 mph.

When the net was lowered, Aikins raised his arms in triumph and hugged his wife and other well-wishers. “I’m almost levitating. It’s incredible!” The Associated Press quoted him as saying.

The whole thing was broadcast live for “Heaven Sent,” a special that aired on the Fox network. The stunt made Aikins the first skydiver to leap from so high and land safely without a parachute or wingsuit.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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