BBC Learning Zone Clips

CLIP 14154

The effects of high altitude on the body

The effects of high altitude on the body
Key Info
  • The effects of high altitude on the body
  • Duration: 06:30
  • As Felix Baumgartner made his ascent to 128,000ft his body risked several life threatening medical conditions. Oxygen in the upper atmosphere is so thin that without breathing equipment Felix risked a condition known as Hypoxia. His body would have been unable to supply his tissues with enough oxygen and he would have quickly lapsed into unconsciousness. Pressure also drops at altitude and without his regulated suit and capsule Felix would have suffered two other lethal conditions. As the pressure fell, the nitrogen trapped in solution in his body would bubble out, leading to decompression sickness; a condition more commonly known as the bends. However, at 63,000ft, Felix passed through the Armstrong line, a deadly threshold where all the gasses trapped in his body would begin to escape. Even a tiny crack in his protective layer and he would have suffered an ebullism as all the fluid in his body boiled. First broadcast in the Learning Zone on BBC2 as part of the series 'The Science of Space Dive' in December 2012.
  • Subject:



    Bio: Human Body

  • Keywords: TheScienceofSpaceDive, SpaceDive, Felix Baumgartner, engineering, atmospheric pressure, physiology, Hypoxia, the bends, decompression, mountain sickness, Armstrong line, acclimatisation, oxyhaemoglobin, Joe Kittinger, oxygen prebreathe
Ideas for use in class
  • Could be used in a discussion about the effects of altitude on the human body. Using an oxygen-haemoglobin dissociation curve, students could be asked to consider the effect of low concentrations of oxygen and decreasing pressure on the body's ability to uptake oxygen. Students could be asked to examine some of the physiological responses the body makes adapting to living in high altitude environments, and why some athletes choose to train in these conditions. Could be used in conjunction with other clips from 'The Science of Space Dive' 14151, 14152, 14153, 14155, 14156
Background details
  • Clip language : English
  • Aspect ratio : 16x9

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