I’ve always thought skydivers were cool. Maybe a little crazy, but to jump from an airplane and float through the atmosphere…alone, with no machines and no engines…seems like an awe-inspiring experience.
Regular jumpers have my kudos and admiration. But they have nothing on Felix Baumgartner.
Tomorrow morning, at 7:30 Eastern time / 6:30 Central, the Austrian adventurer will attempt the world’s highest skydive.
Baumgartner is presently residing in a small capsule pressurized to 16,000 feet altitude that suspended at the edge of space from a 30-million-cubic-foot balloon full of helium. He is wearing a special pressure suit built just for this jump that could revolutionize high-altitude pressure suit operations. Once he opens the capsule and steps outside, this suit is all that is between him and oblivion. It has been designed down to the finest detail to keep this man alive while he falls through our atmosphere and into history.
If all goes according to plan, he’ll break the sound barrier in free-fall. No human being has ever broken the sound barrier without being inside of a machine. This will be a world first. Baumgartner will free-fall 115,000 feet in about five and a half minutes (just enough time to sing “free falling”), jumping from 120,000 feet and deploying his chute at 5,000 feet. He is being coached by the current world-record holder in free fall, USAF Col. Joseph Kittinger (Ret.)
Felix’s parachute is specially designed. It includes a drogue chute (a parachute for the parachute) to provide stability if needed, and it has a cybernetic reserve device that will deploy the reserve chute if Felix is descending more than 115 fps at 2,000 feet.
This mission isn’t just about Felix being awesome. The physical, biological and aerodynamic data collected from this high-atmosphere jump will be invaluable to scientists of all stripes. This miracle of human engineering will enable us to learn how to fly in unimaginable new ways.
Godspeed, Mr. Baumgartner. Godpseed.