March 16, 2012
Taking The Bull By The Horns: Baumgartner Completes 13-mile Skydive
Austrian skydiver extraordinaire Felix Baumgartner has joined an elite list of men who have jumped from the edge of space, after he landed safely from a nearly 72,000-foot jump yesterday near Roswell, New Mexico.
The 70,000-foot-plus feat was first accomplished by Joe Kittinger in November 1959 when he skydived from 76,400 feet, and then again in 1960 from 102,800 feet. Russian Eugene Andreev jumped from 83,253 feet in 1962, landing him in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest free-fall parachute jump.
Now, Baumgartner, who plans to break that record later this summer, becomes only the third person to make the +70,000-foot free-fall.
“I'm now a member of a pretty small club,” Baumgartner said after touchdown (Daily Mail).
Baumgartner lifted off Thursday March 15 aboard a pressurized capsule attached to a 100-foot helium balloon. Once he reached an altitude of 71,581 feet (13.6 miles) he stepped out into nothing and began his 8 minute fall back to Earth.
Trish Medalen, a spokesperson for the Red Bull Stratos project, the sponsor behind Baumgartner´s dive, said he parachuted to a safe landing.
During the fall, “Fearless Felix,” as he is known, reached impressive speeds of 364.4 mph -- more than 534 feet per second. The free-fall portion of his dive lasted 3 minutes and 43 seconds, after which he pulled the ripcord on his parachute to make the rest of the journey, landing 30 miles outside of Roswell at 9:50 a.m. Thursday morning. He spent a total of 8 minutes and 8 seconds falling to Earth, according to the Medalen.
Kittinger, 83, was on hand for Thursday´s test jump. He has been a mentor to Baumgartner and is also one of his chief advisors. “Felix, you´re going to have one heck of a view when you step out of that door,” he said before Baumgartner lifted off. “Enjoy the experience.”
And he was right.
“The view is amazing, way better than I thought,” Baumgartner said after the test jump, in remarks provided by his representatives.
While amazing, Baumgartner also acknowledged that it was a tad chilly -- more than 75 degrees below zero -- at 72,000 feet.
“I could hardly move my hands,” said Baumgartner. “We´re going to have to do some work on that aspect.”
Thursday´s practice jump was a test of the capsule, the pressurized-suit, parachutes and other systems. His total flight, which lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes, from liftoff to landing, was monitored by a Mini Mission Control -- fashioned after NASA´s.
Baumgartner, 42, is well-known for his record-setting BASE jumps and skydives. He set his first world record in 1999 when he made the highest parachute dive from a building when he jumped from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In July 2003, he became the first person to cross the English Channel in freefall using a specially made fiber wing. He has also set a record for the lowest BASE jump ever, and was the first person to BASE jump from the Millau Viaduct in France in June 2004.
In December 2007, he became the first person to jump from the 91st floor observation deck of the then tallest completed building in the world, Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan.
He began working on the latest project shortly thereafter, first reported in January 2010. The goal was to make a record jump from 120,000 feet -- nearly 23 miles up -- more than 3 miles higher than Kittinger´s 1960 jump from 102,800 feet. Baumgartner said at the time he had hoped he could break the sound barrier during the fall.
The Red Bull Stratos project went on hold in October 2010, after Daniel Hogan filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, claiming he had originated the idea of the parachute dive from the edge of space in 2004 and that Red Bull stole the idea from him. The suit was settled out of court in June 2011 and in February 2012, The Daily Telegraph reported the jump was back on.
Yesterday´s successful jump readies Baumgartner for his next test launch where he plans to jump from 90,000 feet, before making his world-breaking attempt later this summer from 120,000 feet.
“I can´t wait to stand on that step. I can´t wait!” said Baumgartner. He was, as he often says, ℠born ready,´ and was excited about making the record-setting jump. This was the real deal, he said. Five years of hard work, sleepless nights, and solving engineering challenges, all led to this moment.
This was the team´s first “manned” capsule flight lifted by a high altitude balloon. Baumgartner flew above a life-critical stage known as the Armstrong Line, where nobody can survive the elements without specialized equipment. Temperatures at that altitude can often reach -94 F.
Despite the dangers of jumping from such extreme altitudes, Baumgartner finds it exhilarating.
“I like to challenge myself,” he told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “This is the ultimate skydive. I think there´s nothing bigger than that.”
There are no hard feelings between Kittinger and the man who is about to break his long-standing record.
Baumgartner said the launch window for the Big One is open from July through October.
Image Caption: Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria seen before his jump at the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on March 15 2012. In this test he reach the altitude 21800 meters (71500 ft) and landed safely near Roswell. Credits: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull Content Pool