When the average person skydives, he or she jumps from a plane. A small, rickety, makes-you-really-glad-you’re-wearing-a-parachute plane, but a plane nonetheless. But when Felix Baumgartner skydives, he jumps from a balloon-lifted capsule while wearing what is, more or less, a space suit. Why? Because he’s jumping from the second-highest skydiving height in history. And by September, he will have jumped from the highest-ever altitude—but more on that later.
On July 25, the Red-Bull sponsored “Fearless Felix” launched himself out of the space capsule to fall over 96,640 feet (that’s 18 miles, folks) reaching speeds of up to 536 mph. (For perspective, he descended the distance of New Hampshire’s entire ocean coastline at a speed that, if his suit were to malfunction, would “make his skin boil.”) After a 90-minute ride to the jumping point, Baumgartner was in freefall for nearly four minutes and in the air for a grand total of 10 before safely reaching ground.
This jump, however, was only the second installation in a three-part series for the 43-year-old Austrian. The project, called Stratos, plans to drop Baumgartner from a height of 120,000 feet—the highest jump in history by about 17,000 feet—allowing his freefall to break the speed of sound. If he succeeds, he will be the first person to ever reach supersonic speeds with his body, which means NASA is paying close attention in hopes to gain knowledge for future space expeditions.
For anyone aching to see what earth looks like from that height, Red Bull has released an animated version of Baumgartner’s final jump. And even though it’s not real (yet), I guarantee it will make your stomach churn.
And (for now), Fearless Felix remains worthy of his name. After landing successfully last week, he said, “I am now really excited. It has always been a dream of mine. Only one more step to go.”
Right. "One step."