On Sunday, October 14, 2012, Felix Baumgartner, will attempt for the third time in one week to skydive from the edge of space 23 miles above the Earth. If successful, Austrian Felix Baumgartner will be the first skydiver to break the sound barrier, and set the world record for the skydive from the highest altitude possible. Hopefully the third time is the charm. Two launches in Roswell, New Mexico, planned for earlier this week were postponed – on Monday and Tuesday – due to high winds and a cold front.
WATCH IT LIVE 10/14/12 8:30am MDT (14 October 2012 14:30 UTC/GMT)
You can watch it streaming Live on internet on the Red Bull Stratos site which uses over 35 cameras in air and on ground, including three cameras mounted on Felix’s suit; or alternatively watch on YouTube’s RedBull channel.
Follow on Twitter @RedBullStratos.
JUST THE FACTS
- Favorable weather conditions are preconditions for launch. Winds must be less than 3 mph on the ground up through higher altitudes, because turbulence could break the ballon carrying Baumgartner. Any precipitation (rain, snow), high humidity (fog), or visibility under 3 miles is cause for canceling the launch.
- Felix Baumgartner, age 43, is a native of Salzburg, Austria. Nicknamed “Fearless Felix” he dreamed of being an astronaut as a child, and parachuted for Special Forces in the Austrian military.
- The Stratos project has been planning this jump from the stratosphere for more than five years. This is a private venture. Red Bull – the energy beverage company – is the sponsor of the Stratos Project, with Albuquerque-based Applied Technology Associates and ASRC Aerospace, ATA Aerospace providing the balloon launch services, personnel, equipment, engineering support (see: www.aptec.com).
- Baumgartner completed practice jumps from 71,580 feet (13.5 mi) and 97,146 feet (18.4 mi), in March and July, 2012, respectively.
- The current skydiving altitude record was set in 1960 by former Air Force colonel Joseph Kittinger, who jumped from 102,800 feet, approximately 19.4 miles, and reached a speed of 614 miles per hour. The now 83-year old Kittinger is on the Stratos team, providing support as the Mission Control’s primary point of radio contact with Felix Baumgartner during ascent.
- Baumgartner will jump from 120,000 feet – 23 miles above Earth – in a pressurized space suit. Baumgartner will free fall for 115,000 feet, an estimated to 5 minutes and 35 seconds. About 35 seconds into his free fall his speed will accelerate to nearly 700 mph, which exceeds the speed of sound and breaks the sound barrier.
THE RISKS AND THE REWARDS
While Baumgartner is an experience skydiver, his attempt is extremely dangerous. His specially-designed spacesuit and balloon use materials so thin and lightweight, that a slight disturbance could tear the material. As he jumps into the stratosphere, temperatures will be around -70 degrees Fahrenheit. As he enters the troposphere, temperatures could be in the range of -90 degrees F. The air at that altitude is so thin, only 1% of the air we breathe on the ground, that during his freefall if the pressurized suit fails or is punctured, the rapid change in air pressure would “boil” the gas in his blood.
Assuming success, Baumgartner will achieve two new records – highest altitude for a skydive, and the first to break the sound barrier. As the first to break the sound barrier, Baumgartner’s experience is a laboratory for scientists to understand the effects. His experience will also validate the specialized, next-generation pressurized spacesuits that astronauts will wear.
Why do people attempt life-threatening firsts and records? In the 20th Century, such as climbing Mount Everest, the answer was, “Because it’s there.” This is the age old purpose, to fulfill our imagination.
Here’s a verse from Cold Play’s “Speed of Sound”:
“Birds go flying at the speed of sound,
to show you how it all began.
Birds came flying from the underground,
if you could see it then you’d understand,
ah, when you see it then you’ll understand?”
Get in the Mood for a vicarious Supersonic Free Fall. Watch Cold Play –
Watch Baumgartner’s Practice Jump from 18 miles –
GODSPEED, MR. BAUMGARTNER, GODSPEED!