Austrian freefaller inspires awe in watching millions

Oct 15, 2012 by Naomi Seck

The world looked on in fear and awe as Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of outer space on Sunday, breaking a slew of records and winning millions of instant fans.

The —broadcast on a 20-second delay intended to give news stations time to cut away in case tragedy struck—was viewed by more than seven million people on alone.

The death-defying jump riveted audiences hungry for a genuinely extraordinary feat in an age when NASA is mothballing and many other supposed thrill-seekers simply perform elaborate stunts.

Reactions poured in on Facebook and from people around the globe who had followed every step of the drama-packed mission, their lingering cynicism quickly turning to disbelief bordering on reverence.

First Baumgartner ascended in a small capsule attached to a massive helium-filled balloon, rising for more than two hours to reach a dizzying altitude more than 24 miles (39 kilometers) above the Earth.

There was unexpected drama and minutes of uncertainty after it emerged that the heating mechanism on his visor wasn't working.

Maybe this would be just like all the other PR exercises, but No! he shifted forward to the edge of the capsule, the Earth but a distant below, and launched himself into freefall.

The biggest risk Baumgartner faced was spinning out of control, which could have exerted excessive G-force and made him lose consciousness. A controlled dive from the capsule was essential, putting him in a head-down position to increase speed.

Transfixed viewers around the world looked on in agony as the Austrian started tumbling chaotically for what seemed like an eternity before finally achieving the correct position.

"Who else saw Felix Baumgartner jump?? Damn what a legend!" Gregor Bates, watching in the British city of Bristol, wrote on Twitter.

Adam Polselli, in US city of San Francisco, tweeted "More than anything, I'm impressed by Felix Baumgartner's courage. May we all be that brave when we step into the unknown."

Austrians were particularly proud.

President Heinz Fischer posted on his page: "I warmly congratulate Felix Baumgartner on this great success, which was achieved with courage and perseverance and is finding worldwide attention."

Jesus Diaz, who covered the event live for technology website Gizmodo, wrote that he "teared up" watching the successful conclusion of the jump.

"He did it, people. He jumped from the edge of space, broke some records, and survived," Diaz wrote.

"Kudos to you, Felix. As you were falling faster than any man in history, you made our collective hearts stop, then swell."

Some drew parallels to Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, saying Baumgartner would inspire the next generation of space pioneers.

Andrew Kavanagh of Ireland suggested that future adventurers may have been paying attention: "My son has spent the past half hour doing Felix Baumgartner impersonations..."

Some had a less reverent take on the daredevil feat.

"Just watched a dude jump from near space. Humans are really dumb and really awesome," wrote Geoff G, in the southeastern US state of Louisiana, on Twitter.

All for a feat whose scientific significance was not clear, some argued.

"Felix Baumgartner has made a giant leap for a man but an infinitesimally small step for mankind," tweeted Peter Bradshaw, whose location was not specified.

Baumgartner broke at least three records: the highest freefall leap, the fastest speed ever achieved by a human and the first person to break the sound barrier of around 690 miles (1,110 kilometers) per hour in .

He said before the attempt that "part of this entire experience will help make the next pressure suit safer for space tourists and aviators."

Former Astronaut Leroy Chiao, speaking on the US news channel CNN after the dive, concurred, saying "the technologies that they have developed, pressure suit technologies, I think you are going to see these things incorporated into future pressure suits that are used in spacecraft."

Explore further: Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

Related Stories

Austrian daredevil eyes new space jump at weekend

Oct 11, 2012

An Austrian daredevil hopes to make a new record-breaking attempt to jump from the edge of space Sunday, after his initial launch bid was aborted due to gusting winds, organizers said.

Austrian eyes record jump from edge of space in US

Oct 08, 2012

An Austrian daredevil is hoping to make an unprecedented leap from the edge of space Tuesday, setting records as he breaks the speed of sound in freefall in the skies above the US state of New Mexico.

Austrian skydiver reached Mach 1.24: official (Update 2)

Oct 14, 2012

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner celebrated his unprecedented feat Monday after becoming the first man to break the sound barrier in a record-shattering, death-defying freefall jump from the edge of space.

Skydiver aims for supersonic plunge on Oct. 8

Sep 25, 2012

(AP)—The countdown is on for skydiver Felix Baumgartner. In just two weeks, the Austrian parachutist will attempt to go supersonic when he jumps from a record altitude of 23 miles (37 kilometers) over the ...

Recommended for you

Brief moon eclipse coming April 4

43 minutes ago

A brief total eclipse of the Moon may be visible on April 4 to skywatchers in western North America, Australia and East Asia, astronomers say.

Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

21 hours ago

An unusually brief total eclipse of the Moon will be visible before dawn this Saturday, April 4th, from western North America. The eclipse happens on Saturday evening for Australia and East Asia.

Cassini: Return to Rhea

Mar 30, 2015

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015.

Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

Mar 30, 2015

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury's dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from p ...

It's 'full spin ahead' for NASA soil moisture mapper

Mar 30, 2015

The 20-foot (6-meter) "golden lasso" reflector antenna atop NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 15, 2012
From the edge of outer space? No, he wasn't at the edge of outer space...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.