Where does space begin? (NASA / Thinkstock)
Where does space begin?
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You asked us, where does space begin?

Amazingly enough, there isn't an answer to that question. At least not one that's internationally agreed upon and legally binding. Which makes sense, because our atmosphere that thin sheet of air that wraps our planet doesn't end abruptly. It gradually thins out.

Coming back down to earth, let's say you wanted to turn your astronaut wings from the U.S. Air Force. How high would you need to fly? Well, get yourself more than 50 miles above the planet's surface and you're golden.

If you're looking to set a world record, though, the International Air Sports Federation raises that bar to 62 miles, the minimum altitude necessary to be considered a space flight. That limit is named after Hungarian scientist Theodore Von Karman.

He suggested it in the 1950s, because above it, normal aircraft wings become useless. Which is just one of the many, many reasons why space flight is tricky business.

For more stories like this, check us out every day, at Smithsonian.com.

Critical thinking challenge: Where does space end?


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COMMENTS (129)
  • LundyG-3
    4/15/2015 - 07:05 p.m.

    No one really has an answer about where space begins. No one exactly knows because out atmosphere gradually fades out, it doesn't just come to a stop. To set a record for farthest in space, you would have to go 62 miles out. The limit was named after Hungarian scientist Theodore Von Karman. This was suggested by him in 1950.

    This is interesting because no one really thinks about going out into space without a spaceship. It would be cool to see if someone actually set the record and to see how long it took them to do it.

  • Dalton1319
    4/15/2015 - 07:27 p.m.

    Space has always been something I dreamed about. I have never really wanted to go into space but I have wondered what is up there and what it would feel like to be floating around. I have also wanted to see what the Earth would look like from so far away, and be able to see other planets closer up. A picture is one thing, but too experience it would be super cool.

  • NateTheKoolKidd
    4/15/2015 - 08:13 p.m.

    In this article, not much is known of space, which is understandable for a few reasons. First, in the text, it reads, "Amazingly enough, there isn't an answer to that question. At least not one that's internationally agreed upon and legally binding. Which makes sense, because our atmosphere - that thin sheet of air that wraps our planet - doesn't end abruptly. It gradually thins out." This could relate to space, for the space could be far reaching and start to thin, but we do not know. Secondly, we cannot send anything that far to know and get a signal back to our planet, so we can't really figure out the distance of space. Finally, we can't send out someone on a mission to find that out, because it would be a large consumption of money and wouldn't be worth it because the person might be lost.

  • AJ_Slater
    4/15/2015 - 08:23 p.m.

    Space doesn't have an internationally agreed upon answer. This is because the atmosphere gradual thins out and doesn't abruptly end. Although we do have an internationally agreed upon distance for something to be considered a space flight. I think this is very cool and would like to learn more about space.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/15/2015 - 09:39 p.m.

    I think that this article might help us where does space begin because people might be curious because they don't know how space begins, but if they become a scientist, they will know how space begins when neither planets nor lights formed. If the scientist know that space begins, space actually starts with a big bang which has all the stuff inside the tiny red spot so if it explodes, everything inside the tiny red spot will come out.
    Critical thinking challenge: Where does space end?
    Answer: Space doesn't end because everything in outer space isn't going to end, neither the milky way, but the universe like ours, the sun is the oldest star in space, so it will turn into a red giant, explode, it turns to neutron star, explodes again, it will become a black hole.

  • SydneyL-3
    4/15/2015 - 09:58 p.m.

    This article is about where space may begin. There is no clear answer to where it begins. At least not one that's internationally agreed upon and legally binding. It makes sense because our atmosphere is a thin sheet of air that wraps our planet and doesn't end abruptly. It moderately thins out. I never had really thought about where space ends until this article and would be interested in knowing.

  • KiraL-1
    4/15/2015 - 10:47 p.m.

    This article is about where space begins. Many people have come up up with theories that many disagree or agree on. There is no definite answer, at least not yet. The Earth's atmosphere does not abruptly end but thins out instead as you get deeper and deeper in it. Some people have set records of flying high into the atmosphere. Today, the world record is 62 miles according to the International Air Sports Federation. 62 is the minimum altitude to be considered a space flight. I found this article very interesting. I didn't know that space "begins" at about 62 miles up from Earth.

  • rachel55
    4/15/2015 - 11:17 p.m.

    The question about where space ends is one that may never be answered. As far as we know, our space goes on forever and ever. But everything eventually comes to an end, right? Well, currently scientists do not have technology that can go out far enough for us to get a proper understanding of how vast space really is. When talking about how far scientists have gone out into space, the article states that "the International Air Sports Federation raises the bar to 62 miles". This statement connotes that it is still not quite clear to us how enormous space is, and we cannot yet answer certain questions concerning other life forms in the galaxy or other alternative planets for people on Earth to live on. Earth is a microscopic part of the Milky Way, and the Milky Way is a microscopic part of the universe. I am not sure if scientists will ever be able to determine the beginning (or end) to space because it is so incredibly large. Maybe one day, though, we will be able to answer questions about space that will revolutionize life as we know it.

  • JohnL-4
    4/15/2015 - 11:54 p.m.

    Students asked Tween tribune where space begins outside of Earth's atmosphere, and it is debated worldwide. There is no set boundary between outer space and the atmosphere, the atmosphere just gradually gets thinner and thinner. In the U.S Air Force, anything above 50 miles in the sky is considered space flight, but the International Air Sports Federation says that it is 62 miles. I find it interesting how the atmosphere does not have a set boundary, and it just thins out.

  • BeckettN-2
    4/16/2015 - 12:55 a.m.

    This article is about how our atmosphere gradually thins out and how planes work differently at high altitudes. Once a plane gets past 62 miles high it turns into space flight in which regular plane wings don't apply. I think it's interesting how space negates plane wings.

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