Sport evolves with technology. Whereas once t’was a horse-drawn chariot we trotted in circles, today it is a jet fuel-powered hydroplane, and we fly. Bungee ropes, once made of liana vines and used for land diving, are now made of latex, allowing jumpers to fall more than half a mile through the sky. Who knows how innovation will allow us to defy the laws of physics next? Check out our predictions of the future extreme sports.
Olympus Mons is the tallest mountain on any planet in the Solar System. At nearly 14 miles above the surrounding Tharsis plains in the northern hemisphere of Mars, it stands almost 3 times as tall as Mount Everest. The Earth and Space Foundation has offered an award to the first mountaineering team to summit Mount Olympus: a piece of Hawaiian rock and a trophy. That modest prize will be hard to come by, as man hasn’t yet stepped foot on Mars. We do have, however, the technology today, if not the will, to do so. Once we do get there, climbing the extinct volcano will not be the first thing we do, but give us time, and we will get there. When asked why he sought to climb Everest, George Mallory famously quipped, “because it is there.” So too is Olympus Mons.
Estimated Arrival Date: 2090
Photo Credit: Psykotrooper / Flickr.com
As mankind takes its love of speed to higher altitudes, we can’t help but wonder when it will be that racers finally break out of earth’s atmosphere. Mainstream commercial space flight is now on the fast track, with Richard Branson scheduled to take his family to space next year on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo. Then, the masses will follow (there are already more than 500 passengers committed to paying $200,000 to take SpaceshipTwo into space). Then will come the competition. Companies that will take passengers up cheaper and higher than Branson’s fleet will fly. After that, who knows what will happen. If we had to guess, we think it will look something like modern air racing, except instead of pylons, space racers will one day slingshot around planets.
Estimated Arrival Date: 2110
Space Rope Swing
Take a boat to your nearest space elevator, push the up button and ascend 22,200 miles into the sky where you will swing through space at nearly 7,000 miles per hour, dodging space junk and watching weather systems develop on your home planet below — It’s not as far-fetched an idea as you might think. Space elevators have been dreamed about for centuries, and we’re closer than ever to making the transportation system a reality. The main thing holding us back: finding a material strong enough to withstand the immense centrifugal force applied to an elevator cable longer than the circumference of the earth. Carbon and boron nitride nanotubes hold promise, and scientists are hacking away at creating compounds that are even stronger. Once they do, beyond the sky is the limit.
Estimated Arrival Date: 2200
We strap ourselves into machines to go faster, higher, longer and deeper than our bodies can go on their own. It’s only a matter of time before we strap ourselves into machines to fight each other in front of a crowd. Not only would mech wrestling be more powerful than human-powered combat, with more dramatic throws and blows that ring out un-mic’d in an arena, mech wrestling could theoretically be more humane. A mech fighter need not sustain significant injury during combat, provided sufficient safety measures, like next-generation HANS devices, are in place. All damage will be done to the exoskeleton; Instead of cut men in the corner, it will be mechanics. Lockheed Martin’s Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) and Raytheon’s XOS 2 (seen above) might be the first steps towards exoskeleton-augmented martial arts. What this sport really needs, however, is a rich dreamer in the private sector to fast track mech wrestling from the lab to the arena.
Estimated Arrival Date: 2120
We’ve conquered water, land and snow with our boards. Isn’t it about time we take on air? Unfortunately, it is not. Although pop culture tells us this hoverboards are right around the corner, it will likely be several decades from now before we ride ours. Engineers can’t figure out by what means a hoverboard will float above earth. Magnetic repulsion? That requires a fixed repelling magnet beneath the board, in other words, a track, which defeats the “off road” purpose of the board in the first place. Air propulsion? Many have tried. Most results look something like this. Hoverblades aren’t any closer to reality, and neither are hovercars. Hoverbikes, on the other hand…
Estimated Arrival Date: 2150