Dave Goes to the "Edge of the Earth"

Early Show weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price inside the U-2. CBS

Dave trained all this week for the ride of a lifetime in a U-2 spy plane in "The Early Show"'s "Edge of the Earth" series. The day of his flight finally came Thursday. He flew to 70,000 feet -- the outskirts of the earth's atmosphere. He finally got to see the Earth's curvature.

The sky was clear at dawn. Dave's pilot, Luke Lokowich, said it was a "great" day to fly.

However, although it was a great day to fly, Dave pointed out, you can't just hop in a plane when you're going as high as man can go without heading into space; you have to go through what he called a "painstaking process" to prepare.

Suited up and breathing pure oxygen, Dave reached the point of no return when he entered the U-2 for his flight. Dave said adrenaline was pumping through him when he felt the throttle push him forward.

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Dave shot nearly straight up into the sky -- on his way to the outskirts of the Earth's atmosphere.

Lokowich said, "Lets go touch the sky shall we?"

"Let's do it," Dave said.

As the plane ascended, Dave said, "You feel like you're going up in a shuttle. What a view!"

Lokowich said, "Oh, it's only just begun."

As the plane reached higher and higher into the sky, Dave said, "You glance at the altimeter and take a minute to look outside, and you have gone up another 10,000 feet."

With the plane reaching heights commercial airplanes never reach, Dave said everything is more of a challenge -- including whistling.

Lokowich said, "Go ahead and try to whistle."

As Dave tried, he said, "Is my mouth dry?"

"No you just can't whistle," Lokowich said. "Something with the cabin altitude above 22,000 feet."

At one point in the flight, Lokowich said the temperature was minus 61 degrees Celsius outside -- almost negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit -- less than an inch away.

"You get so wrapped up in the beauty and novelty of all of this that it's easy to forget the danger," Dave said.

According to Lokowich, if he and Dave were to go through rapid decompression right now at 70,000 feet, their blood would boil instantly, and they would die.

As Dave approached 70,000 feet, he could actually see the curvature of Earth on the horizon.

"That is amazing, unbelievable," Dave said.

Dave recalled after the flight, "There is a peaceful beauty below you, bright sunshine on your face and a rich dark sky above."

Lokowich said, "There is so much quiet it's so, so smooth. It's so peaceful, we're just looking down on this Mother Earth, it's as if there are no problems. It makes you want to fight to protect it every day."

"It gets no better than this," Dave said.

However, just as Dave said he was teased with being the highest person in the world - higher than anyone else, but the astronauts, gravity called him home.

Dave thanked the men and women at the Beale Air Force Base, in Roseville, Calif., saying, "Thank you each and every one of you, not just for that experience, but for what you do on my behalf of me and my family each and every day thank you."

As for the experience, overall, Dave said this has been one of the hardest assignments he's ever had.

"Not because it was so difficult to do, but because it was so difficult to put these experiences in to words," he said. "I just sat there for most of this trip in awe and in silence. And when we got back down here and started looking at the tape, I just didn't say much."

Dave said he was very thankful to have flown in a plane that's so exclusive. He remarked that fewer people fly the U-2 than have Super Bowl rings.

As Dave was in the plane, he told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith, he thought about lots of things, such as the astronauts in the International Space Station, his faith, God, and what's happening on Earth.

"(I thought about) how peaceful everything looks below versus the reality of what exists," he said. "And you're just dumbstruck by the beauty of the planet we live on. It gives you a completely different perspective as you descend and land on earth."

Dave said he said he realized how small human beings are.

He said, "You're above the planes that fly, you're above all that runs around and makes life chaotic. And you just -- you stand there and it puts thing into -- for lack of a better term an ultra perspective -- how small we are, how tiny we are, indeed how tiny this planet is when you compare it to everything above the canopy that you're in."


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