Daredevil's sky jump provides global moment of awe

Oct 15, 2012 by Juan Carlos Llorca
This image made from video, provided by Red Bull Stratos shows pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria as he jumps out of the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012. In a giant leap from more than 24 miles up, Baumgartner shattered the sound barrier Sunday while making the highest jump ever—a tumbling, death-defying plunge from a balloon to a safe landing in the New Mexico desert. (AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos)

(AP)—Felix Baumgartner stood poised in the open hatch of a capsule suspended above Earth, wondering if he would make it back alive. Twenty four miles (38 kilometers) below him, millions of people were watching on the Internet and marveling at the moment.

A second later, the he stepped off and barreled toward a U.S. desert as a white speck against a dark sky. The Austrian-born Baumgartner shattered the and landed safely about nine minutes later, becoming the world's first supersonic .

"When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records anymore, you do not think about gaining scientific data," Baumgartner said after Sunday's jump. "The only thing you want is to come back alive."

The jump was part scientific wonder, part reality show, with the live-streamed event capturing the world's attention on a sleepy Sunday. It proved, once again, the power of the Internet in a world where news travels as fast as Twitter.

The event happened without a network broadcast in the United States, though organizers said more than 40 in 50 countries—including cable's Discovery Channel in the U.S.—carried the . Instead, people flocked online, with more than 8 million simultaneous views of a YouTube at its peak, officials said.

More than 130 digital outlets carried the feed, organizers said.

The privately funded feat came during a lull in . As the jump unfolded, the U.S. crept toward a Los Angeles museum, where it will spend its retirement on display.

The 43-year-old Baumgartner hit Mach 1.24, or 833.9 mph (1,341.97 kph), according to preliminary data, and became the first person to go faster than the speed of sound without traveling in a jet or a spacecraft. The capsule he jumped from reached an altitude of 128,100 feet (39,044 meters), carried by a 55-story, ultra-thin .

Felix Baumgartner, of Austria, gestures prior to speaking with the media after successfully jumping from a space capsule lifted by a helium balloon at a height of just over 128,000 feet above the Earth's surface, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Roswell, N.M. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Landing on his feet in the desert, the man known as "Fearless Felix" lifted his arms in victory to the cheers of friends and spectators. His mother, Eva Baumgartner, cried.

"Sometimes we have to get really high to see how small we are," an exuberant Baumgartner told reporters.

About half of Baumgartner's descent was a of 119,846 feet (36,529 meters), according to Brian Utley, a jump observer from the FAI, an international group that works to determine and maintain the integrity of aviation records.

In this photo provided by Red Bull, pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria lands in the desert after his successful jump on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 in Roswell, N.M. Baumgartner came down safely in the eastern New Mexico desert minutes about nine minutes after jumping from his capsule 128,097 feet, or roughly 24 miles, above Earth (AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos, Predrag Vuckovic) MANDATORY CREDIT

During the first part of Baumgartner's free fall, he spun uncontrollably. He said he felt pressure building in his head but did not feel as though he was close to passing out.

"When I was spinning first 10, 20 seconds, I never thought I was going to lose my life, but I was disappointed because I'm going to lose my record. I put seven years of my life into this," he said.

He added: "In that situation, when you spin around, it's like hell and you don't know if you can get out of that spin or not. Of course it was terrifying. I was fighting all the way down because I knew that there must be a moment where I can handle it."

This image provided by Red Bull Stratos shows pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria as he jumps out of the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012. In a giant leap from more than 24 miles up, Baumgartner shattered the sound barrier Sunday while making the highest jump ever—a tumbling, death-defying plunge from a balloon to a safe landing in the New Mexico desert. (AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos)

Baumgartner said traveling faster than sound is "hard to describe because you don't feel it." The pressurized suit prevented him from feeling the rushing air or even the loud noise he made when breaking the sound barrier.

With no reference points, "you don't know how fast you travel," he said.

Baumgartner's accomplishment came on the 65th anniversary of the day that U.S. test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to officially break the sound barrier in a jet. Yeager commemorated that feat on Sunday, flying in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) above California's Mojave Desert.

In this photo provided by Red Bull Stratos, Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria celebrates after successfully completing the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, N.M., Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012. Baumgartner came down safely in the eastern New Mexico desert minutes about nine minutes after jumping from his capsule 128,097 feet, or roughly 24 miles, above Earth. (AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos, Balazs Gardi)

At Baumgartner's insistence, some 30 cameras recorded his stunt. Shortly after the launch early Sunday, screens at mission control showed the capsule, dangling from the massive balloon, as it rose gracefully above the New Mexico desert. Baumgartner could be seen on video, calmly checking instruments inside.

The dive was more than just a stunt. The U.S. space agency NASA, which was not involved in the jump, is eager to improve its spacecraft and spacesuits for emergency escape.

In this photo provided by Red Bull, pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria is seen in a screen at mission control center in the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, N.M. on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012. Baumgartner plans to jump from an altitude of 120,000 feet, an altitude chosen to enable him to achieve Mach 1 in free fall, which would deliver scientific data to the aerospace community about human survival from high altitudes.(AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos, Stefan Aufschnaiter)

Baumgartner's team included Joe Kittinger, who first tried to break the sound barrier from 19.5 miles (31 kilometers) up in 1960, reaching speeds of 614 mph (988 kph). With Kittinger inside mission control, the two men could be heard going over technical details during the ascension.

"Our guardian angel will take care of you," Kittinger radioed to Baumgartner.

On Twitter, half the worldwide trending topics had something to do with the jump.

This photo provided by Red Bull Stratos shows pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria as he jumps out of the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012. In a giant leap from more than 24 miles up, Baumgartner shattered the sound barrier Sunday while making the highest jump ever—a tumbling, death-defying plunge from a balloon to a safe landing in the New Mexico desert. (AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos, Jay Nemeth)

This attempt marked the end of a long road for Baumgartner, a record-setting high-altitude jumper. He has said this was his final jump.

The sponsor, beverage maker Red Bull, has never said how much the complex project cost.

The capsule and attached helium balloon carrying Felix Baumgartner lifts off as he attempts to break the speed of sound with his own body by jumping from a space capsule lifted by a helium balloon, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Roswell, N.M. Baumgartner plans to jump from an altitude of 120,000 feet, an altitude chosen to enable him to achieve Mach 1 in free fall, which would deliver scientific data to the aerospace community about human survival from high altitudes.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Baumgartner failed to break Kittinger's record for the longest free fall, at 4 minutes and 36 seconds. Baumgartner's free fall was timed at 4 minutes and 20 seconds.

"I was putting everything out there and hope for the best, and if we left one record for Joe—hey it's fine," Baumgartner said when asked if he intentionally left the record for Kittinger to hold. "We needed Joe Kittinger to help us break his own record, and that tells the story of how difficult it was and how smart they were in the '60s. He is 84 years old, and he is still so bright and intelligent and enthusiastic".

In this photo provided by Red Bull, Eva Baumgartner of Austria watches her son, Felix Baumgartner, as he attempts to break the speed of sound with his own body by jumping from a space capsule lifted by a helium balloon, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Roswell, N.M. Baumgartner landed safely on Earth after a 24-mile (38.6-kilometer) jump from high the stratosphere in a dramatic, daring feat that may also have marked the world's first supersonic skydive. (AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos, Stefan Aufschnaiter, HO)

Baumgartner has said he plans to settle down with his girlfriend and fly helicopters on mountain rescue and firefighting missions in the U.S. and Austria.

Before that, though, he said, "I'll go back to LA to chill out for a few days."

This photo provided by Red Bull shows the balloon lifts up during the helium balloon carrying Felix Baumgartner, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Roswell, N.M. Baumgartner plans to jump from an altitude of 120,000 feet, an altitude chosen to enable him to achieve Mach 1 in free fall, which would deliver scientific data to the aerospace community about human survival from high altitudes.(AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos, Predrag Vuckovic, HO)


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evropej
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 15, 2012
Truly amazing...
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (4) Oct 15, 2012
Fellow skydivers everywhere are envious. When we get 'extra altitude' it's usually no more than a couple thousand feet above 13,000. Maybe this will get people to stop telling us we're insane when we only jump from 1/10 the altitude. Blue skies.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (3) Oct 15, 2012
Okay, that first picture of him "provided by Red Bull Stratus" of him jumping out of the capsule from the side (the one not made from video) is a fake. I'm not saying he didn't do the jump, I'm just saying that this being a serious science site I think it inappropriate to be yanking our chains with photo-shopped images like this. I'm not fooled.
flashgordon
not rated yet Oct 15, 2012
this guy's done some great science tribute guitar music; he did one for the Curiosity rover as well,

http://www.youtub...=g-all-u
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (7) Oct 15, 2012
IMO it's the complete waste of money (over $250,000 being more specific) and expensive helium too without any contribution to science - but the people in economical crisis do need their "panem et circenses". After all, why the Kittinger's 32 km record should make so big difference from Baumgartner's 39 one?
Milou
3.8 / 5 (4) Oct 15, 2012
What happened to the balloon and all the equipment to get him up there?
RichTheEngineer
5 / 5 (5) Oct 15, 2012
Capsule disconnected from balloon and parachuted back to earth, recovered with all the valuable data from instruments. I imagine balloon rose until it burst.
Neurons_At_Work
5 / 5 (6) Oct 16, 2012
Okay, that first picture of him "provided by Red Bull Stratus" of him jumping out of the capsule from the side (the one not made from video) is a fake. I'm not saying he didn't do the jump, I'm just saying that this being a serious science site I think it inappropriate to be yanking our chains with photo-shopped images like this. I'm not fooled.

If you had watched the live feed you would have seen that there were two wide angle cameras mounted on booms sticking far out and above the platform. You can see them clearly in the 8th picture. Just prior to jumping he hit a large red button on the handrail with his right hand which based on the audio was to turn on these cameras. You can see the button in the first photo. How's about you do just a little tiny bit of research before going into a rant?
DarkHorse66
5 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2012
@baudrunner:
Okay, that first picture of him "provided by Red Bull Stratus" of him jumping out of the capsule from the side (the one not made from video) is a fake.[...] I'm not fooled.

Yes, you fooled yourself. I can absolutely confirm Neurons At Work's statement. When I switched my TV channel over to another one, I found that they had just started to broadcast the event live & I decided to trade in a couple of hours' worth of sleep to watch it. There were plenty of sideways shots as the capsule ascended. I too wondered how they were doing it (not having read up on any tech specs beforehand)...until a rotational side-motion of the capsule caused the shadow of the entire side-camera to drift across the exterior -twice. It was also fascinating to watch the altimeter, temperature (both internal & external), and other gauges when these were displayed as onscreen readouts. Measurements were put up in both American Imperial & metric. I must say though, for a ....cont
DarkHorse66
5 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2012
cont....scientifically based organisation, NASA seemed rather confused as to how to represent its actual numbers. I don't know if any of you others who watched it live, noticed that they seemed to be confused about when to use a comma or a decimal point. For example,I saw the use of a comma to represent thousands of feet (eg 20,000ft) and a decimal in the metric counterpart (eg 20.000, instead of 20 000). I saw similar mix-ups for other readings, where the use of the decimal point was needed, not the comma. They didn't seem to realise that the decimal point is EXCLUSIVELY used to denote quantities that are smaller than one, as well as being to the right of the point. I should point out that the comma is not used to denote thousands in the metric system; spaces are. I must say, I found it strangely uplifting & entrancing to watch when he actually jumped. It felt like a shock when I realised that the nearly 10 minutes had elapsed. It had felt like a minute or 2. :-} Best Regards, DH66
DarkHorse66
5 / 5 (4) Oct 16, 2012
IMO it's the complete waste of money (over $250,000 being more specific) and expensive helium too without any contribution to science - but the people in economical crisis do need their "panem et circenses". After all, why the Kittinger's 32 km record should make so big difference from Baumgartner's 39 one?

You didn't know??? This jump wasn't done only for the thrill of it. The serious part of it was to collect a whole bunch of scientific data that couldn't be collected the usual way. One of the mysteries was if a person could survive re-entry from that height. Another was to find out once & for all, if falling faster than mach1 would kill you. (There were many of those who were saying that it wasn't survivable & that it would kill him) The same thing had been said when the first attempts by plane were about to be made. Not only did he survive, but he later said that he heard nor felt NOTHING. I'm not quite sure as to what the other stuff was that they were monitoring,...cont
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) Oct 16, 2012
IMO it's the complete waste of money

Since it was paid for by Red Bull - what do you care? People can do with their money what they want.

The jump definitely showed that some sort of stabilizing mechanism will be needed if this is to be a way for 'high altitude emergency evac'.
DarkHorse66
not rated yet Oct 16, 2012
cont...but we will all probably find out in due course. Much of this data will also be used to determine whether future high altitude bailouts are actually possible for astronauts, rather than becoming crispy critters, or dying when something goes wrong. At the moment, well, think Challenger-type endings. Escape pods are still at the sci-fi stage. The reason for all those extra cameras wasn't just for 'looking pretty' on TV. The were also saying that the BBC was using the footage to create a documentary that will be released in about 4 weeks. As for record breaking? Records are there to be broken. As it stands, how many people can you find who would be gutsy enough to do THAT kind of a jump in the first place. Because that is what it takes. Guts. He is not known as 'Fearless Felix' for nothing. From the higher up the readings can be taken, the better anyway. (ie from point of view of data collection) Best Regards, DH66
Allex
5 / 5 (7) Oct 16, 2012
IMO it's the complete waste of money

Well good thing is this is NOT your money, isn't it? It was a private initiative and you cannot do anything about it (STAHP SPENDING MAH TAX DOLLARS!!!) This man has made something you, from your comfy chair of mediocrity, will never even attempt to do. While he has entered the annals of history, you will slip into the depths of vulgarity and nobody will remember you ever lived. Good for you.

In other words - shut your pie hole.
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2012
Darkhorse, it looked like the metric was being measured in Kilometers, which was the reason for the decimal, but I only saw screen shots.

A significant advantage would be if the suit allowed for greater movement. If there's no way to get stable the best option would be to curl into a ball and wait until you get to an altitude where there's enough air for drag to become stable.

On that same note, I recall having a discussion with a materials scientist and fellow jumper that one option for an individual escape pod would essentially be a ceramic ball in which a person would strap themselves to a seat with a parachute (like a jet's ejection seat). The ball would blast apart once it was far enough into the atmosphere that the rider could parachute down. This was a napkin theory, though, and would only work for something in LEO. Otherwise they would burn all the way to the ground.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Oct 16, 2012
If there's no way to get stable the best option would be to curl into a ball

That would only increase your rate of rotation. That will either make you nauseous (and throwing up in a pressurized suit is a bad idea) or will lead to red-out even faster. Anyways a real 'space' evac situation would be from much higher, so the amount of time spent in a condition where you cannot control your flightpath at all is much, much longer (i.e. the whole thing is much more dangerous).

On the other hand a very simple method of venting minute amounts of your oxygen supply through a nozzle on one hand should be enough to give you the ability to stabilize yourself. An automated system on the back would be best as the reference points are scarce and as Baumgartner said: "when reacting up there you always only come in second place"
TrinityComplex
not rated yet Oct 16, 2012
Curling into a ball would prevent blood from trying to burst your extremeties, or feeling like it is. This is as much experience as anything. If you are a sky diver, throw yourself into a spin as hard as you can while spread out, then tuck in. Yes, you'll spin faster, but you won't feel like your hands, feet, and head are about to pop. You get used to spinning when you jump, it has much less of an effect.

The gas pulse is an interesting idea for stabilisation, but getting stable is so reliant on feel that the level of control required might be out of reach, though I'd be willing to try. In a panic situation you want to rely on the ability of the individual to think as little as possible. Fortunately I have never actually HAD to bail out (though a low altitude jump is required for certification), but even experienced jumpers who have tell me it's a little different when you're being forced out of the plane, instead of doing it just for fun.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Oct 17, 2012
The gas pulse is an interesting idea for stabilisation, but getting stable is so reliant on feel that the level of control required might be out of reach,

You're probably right - and the system should work whether you're conscious or not (or what other state you're in). Emergencies have this dumb habit of sometimes leaving one not in the best possible shape to deal with them.
Attitudinal control, however, is very trivial given minimal hardware. Kids quadcopters do it with hardware less powerfull than a cell phone. So I dare say it could be done with a nozzle and a valve and a chip incorporating nothing more than three acceleration sensors.
TrinityComplex
not rated yet Oct 17, 2012
I like that idea, but it might be put to even better use earlier in the escape. To make the escape aparatus as minimal as possible it could all be in some kind of ejector seat. The seat is launched from the craft, the passenger strapped in and suited up. A gas reserve puts it at a reentry angle, and a small inflatable heat shield is deployed, like what NASA developed (http://www.nasa.g...e.html). That also has the potential to create enough drag to slow the passenger down enough to deploy a 'chute.

Quick, call NASA so they can tell us exactly why this wouldn't work! They're just in the phone book, right?
DarkHorse66
not rated yet Oct 18, 2012
@TrinityComplex my memory is telling me the readings were feet vs metres (but my memory is not perfect either). Thing was, they were doing the same kind of screw-up when showing what the int/ext atmospheric pressures were. I think that it was psi vs kPa Those numbers were a lot smaller and there was no way that it could be interpreted as being EITHER(numbers eg only!) 20.000 OR 20,000 It was clear there that they were making a mess of it.
Here is one site that shows one snapshot from the live transmission I was talking about. It is what I saw on my TV:
http://news.cnet....skydive/
For Baudrunner: observe the youtube clip at the bottom of this page: http://www.nashua...n-online
You will see the shadow of the camera rotate at least once across the outside of the capsule! :)
http://www.dailym.../science
Best Regards, DH66

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