Three Russians parachute from stratosphere to North Pole

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[April 19, 2024]  MOSCOW (Reuters) - Three Russians set a world record for parachuting from the Earth's stratosphere to the North Pole last week in a mission that also served as a test of a new prototype communications system for use in the Arctic, an organizer of the venture told Reuters. 

Denis Yefremov, space technology engineer, performs a parachute jump from the Earth's stratosphere to the area near the Russian polar station Barneo close to the North Pole, April 12, 2024, in this still image taken from video. Denis Efremov/RUVDS via Telegram/Handout via REUTERS

Mikhail Korniyenko, Alexander Lynnik and Denis Yefremov hurled themselves from an Ilyushin-76 plane at a height of 10,500 meters (34,450 feet) and spent about two and a half minutes in freefall before opening their chutes 1,000 meters above the ground. The descent was captured in a spectacular video.

All three suffered some frostbite to their cheeks, despite wearing heated masks, said organizer Nikita Tsaplin. As they plunged at a speed of more than 300 km/h, the air temperature of around -50 Celsius (-58 Fahrenheit) felt like -70C (-94F).

They landed near Russia's Barneo polar base, where Tsaplin said they were able to power up a server using diesel generators and establish a connection to a satellite. The equipment had been dropped earlier from a lower altitude.

Communications in the Arctic are likely to take on greater importance as nations including Russia, the United States and China compete there for resources, trade routes and military advantage.

Tsaplin said the Russians were able to send data via an experimental system, though he acknowledged at this point it had nothing like the capabilities of U.S.-based Iridium Communications Inc, which provides coverage from both the Earth's poles.

"Of course, our solution is a prototype, but still we managed, from our server, to connect with our satellite and to transfer data," said Tsaplin, who is managing partner and co-founder of Russian hosting provider RUVDS.

"Sure, it's not Iridium just yet, but we made some small steps in that direction and that was actually the task - to see how realistic it would be to build a low-cost solution in order to get access from a computer to a satellite."

(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Christina Fincher)

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