The First Human To Break The Speed Of Sound In A Freefall

published in: Travel, Vehicles By Despina Pavlaki, 16 October 2012

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photo © Red Bull STRATOS

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner broke the speed of sound by jumping from the highest altitude anyone has ever dared freefall from,  39,045 meters above ground, which would place him squarely inside the stratosphere! Baumgartner is no spring chicken: at 43 years of age, he’s unquestionably in excellent shape. However, the reality is that he only managed to conquer the skies because his 84-year-old mentor Joe Kittinger virtually pushed him out of the capsule door.

But let’s take things from the top: Colonel Joe Kittinger, an ace jet pilot who spent 11 months in a North Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War, originally  set an enviable record. For on August 16, 1960, he executed the highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump and longest drogue-fall, thereby becoming the fastest human being to penetrate the atmosphere. And for 52 years, nobody could challenge his reign. 'There is a reason my record has stood for so long,' Kittinger proudly states. 'This is a calculated risk, you understand the risks that you know about, but there are always unknowns. The biggest unknown we face is that nobody has transited the sound barrier without the aid of an aircraft.' That up until this past Sunday...

video © Red Bull STRATOS

On October 14, 2012, B.A.S.E. jumper, skydiver and all-around adventurer Felix Baumgartner, became the only supersonic human on earth, making good on the 'Born to Fly' promise tattooed across his arm.  Although the fearless Austrian spent a lifetime eyeing that record and five years preparing for the historic Stratos mission (sponsored by Red Bull and manned by a staff of 200), he would never have gotten there if it wasn’t for Joe Kittinger himself!

The former air force pilot was the only person who could talk to Baumgartner as he looked down on a black sky, ready for his historic sky dive. 'There it is the world is out there,' he told his protégé. 'Our guardian angel will take care of you now.' Dangling from a 55-story balloon, Baumgartner disconnected himself from his capsule and leaped into space. 'It's like swimming without touching the water' he said afterwards. But for a few moments all seemed lost. For 35 seconds he span out of control due to last-minute trouble with his visor heater. In the end though, his landing on the New Mexico dessert was pure perfection and the seasoned skydiver remained conscious throughout his supersonic fall.

Within the 4min and 20sec timeframe, he became the first human to break the speed of sound in a freefall, breaking the record for the highest free-fall altitude and highest manned balloon flight as well.
Joe Kittinger hasn’t altogether been outdone though, as he still holds the record for the longest freefall. When asked what he was planning to do next, his student and No.1 fan simply confessed that he still aspires to take his place: 'Honestly I want to inspire the next generation,' said Baumgartner. 'I would love it if there was a young guy sitting next to me asking what my advice is, wanting to break my record.' And who know, maybe one day, someone will…

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

''On the way up without even opening the capsule door you can find yourself in a life or death situation. So it's extremely dangerous.''
Mike Todd, Red Bull Stratos Life Support Engineer

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

video © Red Bull STRATOS

More than 35 cameras captured the entire Red Bull Stratos mission. Watch this point of view where Felix stands at the edge of his capsule and jumps.

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

''It's like swimming without touching the water''
Felix Baumgartner

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

photo © Red Bull STRATOS

sources:

Red Bull Stratos

  • friend
    JAN | 2012-10-17 10:55:27

    Sorry, but I fail to see where the feat is. It's more like the main corporate sponsor was running out of ideas and had to go crazy. I have respect for them, and they have done some really original things: the air races top my list with outstanding airmanship, fantastic venues and big crowds enjoying them. This time it looks like yet another headline-grabbing trick with little real "right stuff" value. As a passionate aviator I watched it live and caught myself channel surfing! C'mon guys, give us something to really inspire us.

  • friend
    Imon | 2012-10-29 15:38:34

    Really?? You dont see any insiration? Any "big idea"? Any tough spirit, strong will, effort? Well...for me, there is one team that worked endless hrs for the last 5 years, 1 company that -yes for marketing purposes- brought a crazy idea into life, letting millions of people witness it LIVE, taking a huge risk in case sthg was wrong...I see fresh, I see hard, I see value...and sorry to miss the corporate struggle to do sthg new because they run out of ideas...i see many ideas...that is if ofcourse you want to see & you dont get blind because the word 'company' usually does not fit with a creative & innovative terminology!

  • friend
    kostas syrtariotis | 2012-10-17 11:31:39

    Another giant leap for humanity. Well done, Felix!

  • friend
    alex cuschieri | 2012-11-04 10:26:31

    What a useless feat. Good for the sponsors at the expense of putting a humans life in jeopardy. Was anything scientific achieved, NO. n

  • friend
    lovedesigninspire | 2013-04-22 14:26:18

    Absolutely insane, love it!

  • friend
    Fred B. McLean | 2013-09-18 16:50:35

    It's been almost one year since this stunt/feat was performed. I have been amazed by it. Job well done to everyone involved! I used to erect elevated water-towers for a living. I LOVE heights. Although I was trained NOT to fall....I wish I could do this!

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