Sunday, October 14, 2012

128,000 ft Jump!


Everyone has limits. Not every one accepts them. - Felix Baumgartner

Everyone has limits. Not every one accepts them. - Felix Baumgartner

Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner, aka Fearless Felix, jumped from the altitude of 128,097 feet around noon this Sunday, October 14, just outside of Roswell, NM, breaking several world records: highest free-fall, fastest free-fall, and highest manned balloon flight.

The free-fall lasted 4 minutes 22 seconds.

Although Baumgartner broke several world records today, he was unable to break Kittinger's free-fall record.

The Red Bull Stratos mission to the Edge of Space attempted to transcend human limits that had been set by Joseph W. Kittinger some 50 years ago. 

The Red Bull Stratos team brought together the world's leading minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon fabrication. It included retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who holds three of the records Felix wanted to break.

Joe's record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960 was during a time when no one knew if a human could survive a jump from the edge of space. Joe was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and had already taken a balloon to 97,000 feet in Project ManHigh and survived a drogue mishap during a jump from 76,400 feet in Excelsior I. The Excelsior III mission was his 33rd parachute jump. This was the time he established a world record that remains unbroken to this day. Kittinger's free-fall lasted 4 minutes 36 seconds - 14 seconds longer than Baumgartner's. 

 Felix Baumgartner in free-fall

Although researching extremes was part of the program's goals, setting records wasn't the mission's purpose. Joe ascended in helium balloon launched from the back of a truck. He wore a pressurized suit on the way up in an open, unpressurized gondola. Scientific data captured from Joe's jump was shared with U.S. research personnel for development of the space program. Today Felix and his specialized team hoped to take what was learned from Joe's jumps more than 50 years ago and press forward to test the limits of the human capacity.
 
Landed safely east of Roswell
 
Baumgartenr ascended to the low stratosphere in a capsule that was carried by a balloon which itself was a technological marvel.

The balloon was constructed of strips of high-performance polyethylene (plastic) film that was only 0.0008 inches thick or 10 times thinner than a lunch bag. In total, these strips would cover 40 acres if they were laid flat. Polyester-fibre reinforced load tapes were incorporated to do the weight bearing.

The Stratos balloon was filled with 30 million cubic feet of helium which10 times larger than Joe Kittinger's balloon in 1960.

The Roswell-jump not only terminated Baumgartner's skydiving career, but it also marked the 65th anniversary of US test pilot Chuck Yeager successful attempt to become the first man ever to officially break the sound barrier aboard an airplane.

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