Felix Baumgartner jump is hogging the limelight. He broke sound-barrier record and it will take years to equal or break it (video)
Felix Baumgartner, 43, skydived at supersonic speeds from 24.5 miles above the earth’s surface in his Red Bull Stratos space-suit on October 14 from Roswell, New Mexico. The max speed of his 4.19-minute freefall was calculated at 1,342.8 kmph or Mach 1.2 which is a new record at breaking the sound barrier by a man without the help of any machine.
The man of the moment, Baumgartner, was rather humble after the record-breaking feat and said that he didn’t attempt the devilish feat just to set a record. He also did it for the sake of science, one that could help space agencies like NASA build better spacesuits for astronauts.
The previous record made in 1960 by Joe Kittinger, a U.S. Air Force Captain, was no less daring. Kittenger pulled off the record jump from 31,333 metres. During the jump, Kittenger was the team advisor on the mission, and now he was the one to communicate with Baumgartner during the record-breaking skydiving feat.
Baumgartner’s feat was closely watched from all over the world via live views. Astronauts who watched the live Red Bull webcast took to microblogging site Twitter to express their happiness. Astronauts from the world over, including the USA and Europe sent congratulations to Baumgartner after he broke the sound-barrier with his freefall.
About the jump, Baumgartner compared it to the feeling of swimming without touching the water. Though there were violent twists and turns during the freefall, the Austrian daredevil kept his cool and more importantly his consciousness, to pull off the stunt.
The capsule which took Baumgartner halfway to the edge of the space was carried up by a balloon. Nothing less than a record, the balloon measured 550 feet or 167 metres in height at take-off. The balloon was made from nearly transparent polyethylene or plastic strips about the same thickness as a dry cleaner bag, which are heat-sealed together. Though thin, the helium-filled balloon weighed around 3,000 lbs.
The balloon took two and a half hours to reach the desired height and Baumgartner took the leap from the capsule. The first 35 seconds saw the BASE jumper spin out of control dangerously but he gained control after that. Baumgartner later said that he was afraid all the way down after that as he tried to keep control of the freefall.
There was one problem, however, which Baumgartner and his team took the risk to ignore. The faceplate heater in the helmet was a bit problematic, but later Baumgartner said that it worked well. The risk paid off rather well.
The historic 4.19-minute freefall didn’t come easy as it looks. Skydiver Baumgartner and his team gave five years to prepare for the freefall. More than a record, the achievement will improve spacesuits for future astronauts and help medical science understand better how the human body copes under extreme conditions as Baumgartner went through.
At the end of the day, Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull stood tall on three record-breaking achievements – first freefall to break the sound barrier, freefall from highest altitude, highest manned balloon flight.