United Launch Alliance (ULA) has installed a 1,350-foot-long (410 meters) zip line on its Atlas V launchpad in Florida, but the company hopes the new system will never have to be used.
Rather than joyrides, the zip line is intended to give astronauts a superfast way to escape during a launchpad emergency. The system is similar to the slide-wire baskets NASA once used for space shuttle crews.
ULA, which will provide launch services for crews riding aboard Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsules, mulled over several different options, including tracks and a gondola, before settling on a zip-line system and a partner to build it. That partner, Terra-Nova, has designed and built some of the most challenging recreational zip lines around, including an 8,350-foot (2,545 m) ride over Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico, the world’s longest zip line. [Check out more photos ULA’s astronaut zip line]