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[i]Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard, had been exploring the same question. In October of 2018, he published an article in Acta Astronautica, a peer-reviewed academic monthly, titled "The Edge of Space: Revisiting the Karman Line." He drew on history, explaining how, in the late fifties, the U.S. Air Force began awarding astronaut wings to pilots who flew above fifty statute miles, and how fifty miles was not only a "nice round figure" but also "the right choice from a physical point of view" because the mesosphere starts about fifty miles above sea level.
McDowell made a scientific argument, too. As von Kármán had done, he contended that our notion of space should begin wherever orbital dynamics exceed aerodynamic forces — wherever an airplane can no longer operate like an airplane — and demonstrated that, based on ballistic coefficients and modern atmospheric models, fifty miles is a "suitable choice to use as the canonical lower 'edge of space' in circumstances where such a dividing line between atmosphere and space is desired."[/i]
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