A little break from politics on this Sunday. When this article goes live, you will be able to join, in progress, an attempt at breaking a record which has stood since 1960. At approximately 11:30 AM eastern time this morning, Felix Baumgartner lifted off in a capsule under a massive helium balloon. Over the next two hours, he will attempt to fly it up to more than 120,000 feet – pretty much to the edge of space. Once there, he’s going to … get out.
As the winds calmed Sunday morning, Felix Baumgartner’s team made the critical decision to begin inflating an enormous helium balloon designed to carry him to the stratosphere, where he hoped to make the highest jump in history and become the first sky diver to break the speed of sound. ..
Mr. Baumgartner, wearing a pressurized suit to survive in the near vacuum at the edge of space, planned to step off the capsule above 120,000 feet and quickly break the sound barrier, reaching a speed of more than 700 miles an hour. He expected to free fall for five and a half minutes before deploying his parachute a mile above the ground.
Mr. Baumgartner, a professional daredevil, was backed by a NASA-style mission control operation at an airfield in Roswell that involved 300 people, including more than 70 engineers, scientists and physicians who have been working for five years on the project, called Red Bull Stratos, after the drink company that has financed it.
For those who have the Discovery Channel, they’re covering it live there, with cameras mounted inside and outside the capsule, as well as on the ground. Succeed or fail, they should catch the entire thing on live TV. But if you’d rather get together and chat about it here, I’ll embed the live video feed from Space.com below.
The record that Baumgartner is trying to break was set by one of the last surviving (today) supermen from the early era of space exploration and test pilot glory. Joe Kittinger made his leap more than fifty years ago, and his story is simply amazing. He’s long been a personal hero of mine, as he was to most of us who have ever spent their time in sport skydiving. (I haven’t jumped since the 90’s.) And Joe is not only still alive, he’s on the ground with Felix’s crew, talking him through it as he ascends and prepares to jump.
But enough from me… here’s the video. Enjoy.