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Where does outer space begin?

Updated Tuesday, 20th July 2021

Can a balloon carry you up to outer space? Does it count as being in space if you go up and down without orbiting the Earth? How high up to you have to be before you could orbit the Earth? 

Commercial flights to the edge of space by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin have brought these questions back into fashion, so let’s take a look.

While we were planning and filming an ambitious item for Bang Goes the Theory, in which an 'action man' type-figure dubbed mini-Dallas is sent up to the "edge of space" by a balloon, there was a lot of discussion among the Bang gang about whether or not we could claim to be reaching 'space', and also whether Joseph Kittinger  had really "parachuted from space" after his balloon ascent to 102,800 feet (31,333 metres) in 1960.

We got our mini-Dallas to pretty much the same height, but I’m afraid that the answer has to be ‘no’ in both cases, even though the sky looks gratifyingly black in our remarkable camera shots.

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