Man skydives from the edge of space (24 miles above Earth), breaks the sound barrier, and lives to tell about it

What did you do this weekend? Whatever it is, I bet it isn’t as amazing as what Felix Baumgartner did — jump from the edge of space.

Baumgartner, a 44 Austrian skydiver, took an air balloon up 128,100 feet (24 miles, 39km) above New Mexico, United States and jumped. In case you are wondering, 24 miles high in the sky isn’t technically being in space but it is sure damn close; to put it into perspective, commercial flights fly at roughly 1/3 the altitude Baumgartner jumped from. In fact, Baumgartner had to sit in a special pressurized capsule while ascending to the great height and had to jump in a specially designed suit — similar to what astronauts wear — to protect himself from the hazards in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Baumgartner fell a total distance of 119,846 feet in free fall in the “delta” position (head tucked in, arms behind his back) before deploying his parachute for the reminder of the fall to Earth. It took him a total of 4 minutes and 19 seconds to travel that 119,846 feet distance in free fall during which he broke the sound barrier, reaching a maximum velocity of 833.9 MPH (1,342 KM/h). The remainder of the distance, after deploying his parachute, took another five minutes, making the total jump time roughly 10 minutes (9 minute and 3 seconds, to be exact).

Check out the following video, which shows the jump as it happened:

Baumgartner has been planning this jump since 2005 and would have actually jumped on Oct 9 had bad wind not come in the way. Even on Sunday Oct 14 when he finally made the jump, Baumgartner hit a small glitch prior to jumping when his helmet visor fogged up due to a broken hearter. The obstacle was eventually overcome and Baumgartner took the leap… well actually it was a bunny hop, but who cares about semantics. I wonder what would had happened if the foggy visor problem was not solved — would someone send a rescue mission to retrieve the lad from the edge of space?

Thanks to this stunt Baumgartner broke a few world records. The first record he broke is the highest flight ever in an air balloon, when he ascended to the 128,100 feet height. The second record he broke is being the first person ever to break the sound barrier without an aircraft. The third, and potentially most significant, record Baumgartner now holds is the record for the highest ever skydive. The previous record was held by US Air Force Col Joe Kittinger who jumped from 102,800 feet in 1960 in connection with a US Air Force mission. Unfortunately, Baumgartner didn’t break the record of longest time spent in free fall — Kittinger still holds that record with 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

Interestingly enough, the jump wasn’t just for kicks and giggles. According to the Red Bull Stratos team, the team that worked with Baumgartner for the jump, valuable scientfice data was gathered during Baumgartner’s skydive — data that will be used by aeronautical entities, including NASA, to save lives by helping develop emergency exit procedures for spacecraft.

Damn. I’m almost speechless.

[via BBC, Red Bull blog]

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  • Fredxyz

    What I want to know is how did he land at his target. Did it have a homing beacon and he carried a detector or something that permitted him to home in on it?

  • jayesstee

    I guess you have it right. If a liquid or gas is flowing over (say) a solid object and both are at the same temperature, then thew will both gain heat (increase in temperature) due to friction.
    But if one is hotter than the other, then the hotter of the two will loose heat and the cooler will gain heat. Presumably the “friction heat” raises both slightly.

    Anyway, congratulations to Felix Baumgartner and his team for a truly amazing feat!

  • Eric989

    @RobCr: I don’t know about the heat. Certainly 800mph is much different than the space shuttles at 20,000mph or whatever. But then bullets at 1 or 2 thousand mph cause a lot of heat to the barrel but the friction dynamic is much different.
    While speed through air will produce heat, it is a very strange dynamic. I mean we use fans to cool things, but then too much wind and things start to melt like the space shuttles. Maybe a more scientific minded Dottechie can explain this to us. I am guessing that the friction of air movement always is creating more heat but the air can still cool things until the friction heat overcomes the heat of the object being cooled.
    For example your processor in your computer may be very hot and a fan blows room temperature air on it to dissipate the heat. The fan would have to be blowing awfully fast for its friction heat to surpass the heat of the processor and until that happens the fan will continue to cool the processor.

  • RobCr

    I was predicting to my friend that there would be heat (friction) problems. I may have been wrong ? But I thought anything falling would get very hot ?
    I may have been partly correct, as one news coverage mentioned that his visor was having overheating problems (not the earlier visor defrosting problem), and he had to deploy his parachute earlier than was planned.