GenesisThe Kalpa Group was established by Loel Guinness in 2000 to take over the research activities of the Loel Guinness Foundation. Created in 1992, the Foundation was a non-profit organisation which encouraged researchers with an interest in using advanced technology to solve complex technical problems that, in the short-term, led to world records, but had the long-term objective of leading to wide-ranging benefits. The Foundation supported exceptional individuals with original ideas including mountaineers, explorers, engineers, astronauts, doctors and linguists. Loel Guinness’s interest in exploration had been piqued by his grandfather’s gesture of purchasing the Calypso, the vessel used by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in his pioneering underwater exploration. Utilising technology and marine science, Cousteau achieved world fame through his numerous books and films that popularised the previously hidden underwater world, including the Le Monde de Silence (1956), the first such documentary to win an Oscar. After inheriting the Calypso, Loel Guinness donated it to the Cousteau Foundation in 2006.
Projects supported and world records achieved through the Foundation’s funding included:
- Sky Dive from Space
- Ascent and Paragliding world records at Mt McKinley (Alaska), Mt Cho Oyo (Tibet) and Namibia.
- International Aviation Solar Sail Research Project.
- Amazon Native Medicine Research Project. In conjunction with the Native Medicine From Plants project at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
- Normandy Arboretum Project.
- The Trans-Changthang Expedition, Tibet. Led by Dr Michel Peissel.
Sky Dive from Space
The Sky Dive from Space Project (1991 - 1995) exemplified the approach of the Loel Guinness Foundation. The objective was to evaluate the possibility of human escape from space vehicles at extreme altitudes by testing the stability of a human body in free-fall at supersonic and transonic speeds. This ambitious project was to draw together some of the most accomplished individuals and organisations in space exploration and aeronautical design. These included Karl Henize, a former NASA astronaut, Nish Bruce, one of the world’s best free-fallers, and Per Lindstrom, the world’s top balloonist at the time, as well as leading experts from the USA and Russia in the fields of balloon manufacture, space suit design, launching and landing sites, and telemetry and monitoring.
With plans for longer duration space missions it was important to know how people’s bodies would be affected, including the way bodily tissues behaved when struck by radiation, and for this purpose, NASA had built a meter called a tissue equivalent proportional counter or TEPC. When Loel Guinness learnt of NASA’s interest in the effects of radiation at high altitudes, he saw a way to help NASA and thus create a link that could be useful for the Sky Dive from Space project. He suggested that a NASA astronaut might participate in one of their expeditions that would take the TEPC to different altitudes. Karl Henize, a veteran NASA astronaut, joined the team. While the Sky Dive project was evolving, Loel Guinness, together with Harry Taylor, organised an Everest research trip with the NASA radiation meter. Although the trip was marred by the death of Karl Henize and the subsequent illness of Nish Bruce, the TEPC meter had done its job, and when it was later analysed at NASA Headquarters, an increment was added to the human physiology database. In 1995, it was decided to conclude the Sky Dive project due to the declining health of Nish Bruce who sadly committed suicide in 2000.