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I’m no Felix Baumgartner, but I have been skydiving, once. It was, of course, incredible, and the most intense and disparate mix of emotions and brain signals I’ve ever received at one time. When you’re up there in the plane, every muscle in your body, every thought in your head, urges you to do anything but throw yourself out the open door. You naturally fight death, which is what your brain naturally thinks will happen when you fall into the sky. But you go anyway, mostly because you’re strapped to a skydiving instructor who’s pushing you from behind and won’t let you wuss out or stall. For the first ten seconds, it feels like your head is going to explode in a mixture of fear, adrenaline, cognitive dissonance, and more. Sheer exhilaration takes over, at which point you realize this is the most fun you’ve ever had doing anything. Until a meteorite clocks you in the head. Luckily, that last part didn’t happen to me. You wouldn’t think it could happen to anyone had I not seen a video of Anders Helstrup, a Norwegian skydiver who barely escaped a collision with the cosmic debris.
In June 2012, Helstrup and other members of the Oslo Parachute Club jumped out of a perfectly good airplane wearing wing suits and helmet cams. After Helstrup deployed his parachute, something whizzed by, something he barely registered until he reviewed footage of the jump. It’s clear from the video that a stone-like object, travelling faster than Helstrup, zoomed past. Some people think it could have been a rock that somehow got into his parachute, but that doesn’t explain the speed of the object, or how something that size could have gone undetected by an experienced jumper.
He quickly arrived at the conclusion that this was a meteorite, and after the jump Helstrup and friends returned to the area to look for any sign. They weren’t able to find anything. He then contacted Oslo’s Natural History Museum, who also believed the object was a meteorite, due to the shape and size, and helped calculate a smaller area in which it was most likely to land. Still, they haven’t been able to find anything, largely because it’s pretty tough to tell a big rock from a meteorite, which Helstrup learned when he brought a stone to the museum thinking it was the object they were looking for. This is the first time a skydiver has caught a meteorite on film, so even if they don’t find it, Helstrup still gets a big helping of geek cred.