December 16, 2006
Swedish Astronaut Breaks Frisbee Record
PHILADELPHIA _ A Swedish astronaut kept a Frisbee in the air for 20 seconds Friday, claiming the new world record for "Maximum Time Aloft".
Only thing is, it was floating in zero gravity, aboard the International Space Station. And the astronaut, Christer Fuglesang, kept it from bumping into anything _ or going out of range of the camera in a feed to Earth _ by blowing on it.
If the record is accepted by the World Flying Disc Federation, Fuglesang would eclipse the longstanding 16.72-second flight launched over Chester County's Warwick Park by Don Cain of Haddonfield in 1984.
Fuglesang's first attempt, during a live web event with Swedish children and Crown Princess Victoria, was a dud.
As fellow astronaut Thomas Reiter, a German pilot, counted down _ "Three, two, one, go!" _ Fuglesang released his white Frisbee.
The two floated together for a bit, but then the Frisbee went askew and Fuglesang caught it, laughing, after a few seconds.
Back on the blue planet, Cain was watching on a computer with co-workers at M&S Electronics in Audubon, N.J. The cheer was tremendous.
Then Fuglesang tried again.
"Ten seconds," Reiter reported, checking his watch. "15."
As he announced, "20 seconds," Fuglesang grinned broadly, let out a triumphant "Aaaah!" and grabbed the Frisbee. The earth-bound audience _ in Sweden _ applauded.
Within 15 minutes, the Swedish tabloid, Aftonbladet, was trumpeting the achievement: "World record was set tonight _ in Frisbee."
Fuglesang, a physicist who is Scandanavia's first astronaut, holds his country's title for Maximum Time Aloft, a record he set in 1978.
But will the rest of the world accept this new record?
Cain was so impressed that he almost wouldn't mind relinquishing the title.
"It was absolutely mind-blowing to watch that," he said. "My head is still up in the stratosphere."
Technically, Cain said, the toss was correct. The Frisbee left Fuglesang's hand, and he caught it.
Then again, Cain said, in zero gravity Fuglesang "could have thrown a manhole cover and still beat the record."
And as a lot of his friends are insisting, "doesn't a world record have to be on the world?"
Dan Roddick, who keeps the world records, saw the space feed, too. "Really, really cool," he gushed.
Yeah, but did it break the record?
"It seems to me we need a new category for a fabulous performance like this," Roddick said. "It seems this is clearly the galactic record."
Then again, maybe Cain won't give up so easily.
"I'm trying to figure out how to get Bill Gates to buy me a ticket to space. To defend my record, of course."