What is a Parachute?
The reason why parachutes work is because they successfully create a drag effect in the air, due to their design. Drag means that parachutes act in the opposite direction of the oncoming velocity, which in this case is gravity. Parachutes are made primarily from nylon, which has a high resistance.
Evidence suggests that the first parachutes were invented during the renaissance period. While there is no proof that anyone actually tried it, there were quite a few drawings - one of them notably by Leonardo da Vinci that showed that people were aware that if such a contraption was used, the fall from the sky would be relatively slower and safer. The first documented evidence of a parachute tryout was by an Italian inventor, Fausto Veranzio, who, inspired by da Vinci's designs, made a parachute of his own and jumped from a Venetian tower in 1617. But since he is said to have died in that year itself, it is not certain if his experiment was successful.
Nevertheless the first documented and successful parachute fall from a modern parachute was in 1783 by a Frenchman Louis-Sébastien Lenormand. Parachutes have since then been used not only for adventure sports like paragliding and skydiving, and for fulfilling juvenile dreams of flying, but parachute falls were extensively used in the Second World War as a surprise attack element or in case of landing emergencies.
While a correct parachute fall is not exactly difficult, it is important to know the steps for a safe parachute landing.
- Once you've jumped off with your parachute and opened it, start positioning yourself. As the ground gets closer, stop looking at it, otherwise you might start panicking! Bend your knees and hold your feet together. Don't keep the feet too rigid. The slight bend in the knees is to ensure that the knees will be able to absorb the sudden pressure on landing. The body should be erect and make sure that the toes are pointing in the direction of the landing.
- Drop your chin down to your chest and keep the neck muscles tensed. When you hit the ground for the first time, don't let your knees give way. Use the bend in the knees to spring. Twist and bend your hips to give direction to your landing. When you land, roll on the balls of your feet, up to your calves, buttocks and your back. Keep the neck strained downwards all the way down.