From outer space to the bottom of the sea: UAE adventurer to explore wreckage of Titanic next

Hamish Harding will dive to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in a few days



Hamish Harding, UAE resident, adventurer, and space tourist
Hamish Harding, UAE resident, adventurer, and space tourist
by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Mon 13 Jun 2022, 5:26 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Jun 2022, 4:46 PM

The UAE resident Hamish Harding who blasted off to space as a tourist on board Blue Origin’s crewed flight is now set on a new mission - to explore the depths of the Titanic.

Harding is a jet pilot, avid adventurer and chairman of Action Aviation. He has just returned from his maiden space exploration and is ready for a new adventure.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Harding says, “I’ve been lucky enough to get another opportunity to dive to the Titanic which sank in 1912, when it hit the iceberg and split in to two as it sank, in 10 days' time. I’ll be lucky enough to go down the submarine and explore the Titanic and see what’s left off the Titanic now over 100 years later.”

The wreckage of the RMS Titanic, the British passenger liner, lies at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Fascinated to see home planet from space

Recalling his journey as a space tourist Harding underlined that looking down on the Earth from the darkness of Space proved to be the most riveting experience for him.

Talking about his unique perspective of our home planet, Harding said he had spoken to several astronauts before his maiden space flight and their experiences resonated with his.

“Zero G is great fun, of course, up in space. But looking down on the Earth was absolutely spectacular…all the astronauts had said this to me before I did that flight… looking down on our planet from space is an incredible sight."

Describing his view of the Earth, he said, "You do see the world as a sphere. And you see a small atmosphere that is blue below you. But above you, the sky in space is all black. There's absolutely no blueness about the sky once you're outside the atmosphere."

The light from the sun is different as well. "Even though the Sun is up," he explains, "we were on the side of the planet that had the Sun. So the Sun was very bright, as we looked towards it, but anywhere else in the sky was totally black, which is a definition of space."

"In fact, once you're way outside the atmosphere, there is no refraction of light to make it look blue at all. And down below. There's the small layer of atmosphere,” says the British expat.

Harding and the crew
Harding and the crew

Elucidating on his experience Harding further says, “The first 100,000 feet of atmosphere above the Earth looks blue. When you look at it, especially on the horizon, as you look from space it seems the planet is very fragile. It seems like a small atmosphere when you're looking down from above. We were about four times the height of the atmosphere.”

Describing the calmness once the booster rocket detaches, he adds, “You're on your own. There's no further propulsion you're just flying freely in a gravitational pull of a parabola. So the booster rocket is serious, there is a lot of noise. So, as you launch vertically, you're going up to three G's of acceleration (3 times the normal gravitational force) as it reaches 2200 miles an hour or 3500 kilometers an hour, which is about Mach three speed… three times the speed of sound."

He describes the process of the launch itself as noisy and full of vibrations. However, the "best bit", according to Harding, is when the booster rocket detaches and the capsule is on its own in space.

"You have to stay in your seat until the booster rocket detaches because there is an emergency procedure on these rockets that if anything goes wrong with the booster rocket, and there's a lot of liquid hydrogen liquid oxygen inside the booster rocket so things can go wrong potentially. There's a solid rocket motor in the capsule that will fire off the capsule at 11 G to escape from the rocket," he explains.

Talking about the zero-gravity environment that allowed him to float, flip, and soar he says, “I had 15 minutes of Zero G already, as practised inside an airliner… where you're flying around the cabinet. It’s an airliner that has no seats, it's just empty cabin. That in itself is a good experience. But even that doesn't prepare you completely because zero G is just better in space. It's calmer. It's just quieter and a much better experience that in an airliner.”

What if things go wrong in space?

Shedding light on the safety procedures concerning the commercial space transportation industry, 50-year-old Harding explains if things go out of control there is always a safety net.

“The computers will escape you in 130 milliseconds, much shorter than any human could think. We could suddenly be launched off anytime that we're connected to the booster rocket. The escape enabled parameter is there. The solid rocket booster in the capsule could fire you off if a fire develops in the rocket.”

He adds, “It's obviously been tested without human beings on three different occasions on the actual launch pad. If there is a problem before launch, the capsule would be fired off at 11 G and come back down on the parachute. During the ascent, it's been tested and right at the top of the assent in space. It's been tested in case the detachment doesn't work. It'll fire you off from the top of the booster rocket anyway even if it does not decouple properly.”

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Harding is no stranger to extreme risks - and neither is his child. His now 17-year-old son Giles, who is a record holder himself for being the youngest person ever to go to South Pole at the age of 12, says, “I was quite nervous for him. He has done these amazing missions like going to the Mariana Trench, then going to the South Pole but seeing him go to space was nerve-wracking. The whole build up was a long process. It was quite exciting but nerve-wracking as well to see your dad going to space because there is obviously an element of danger.”

What did Harding carry to space that survived the bottom and the top?

He took some cups which had gone to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (deepest place on Earth). These were little polystyrene cups that got squashed outside the submarine. He says, “When you go to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, it's 1200 atmospheres pressure outside the submarine and we left some polystyrene cups outside the submarine that got compressed to about a quarter of their size and I decided to take some of those to space as well. So, they beat the bottom and the top.”


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