Supersonic skydiver jumps from the edge of space – and lives to tell the tale

supersonic skydiver jumps from edge of space and lives to tell the tale red bull stratosAustrian extreme skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space on Sunday, and has lived to tell the tale. 

Lots of records were smashed in the extraordinary leap, which took place above New Mexico, including:

  • highest manned balloon flight – his balloon took him to a height of 128,000 feet (24.2 miles), some way above the planned 120,000 feet
  • highest jump – at 128,097 feet (39,044 meters), it smashed the previous record, held by Colonel Joe Kittinger, who jumped from a height of 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) in 1960. Fittingly, Kittinger was part of Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos support team, and talked with the Austrian from mission control throughout his ascent
  • first person to break the speed of sound without the aid of a vehicle, falling at faster than 690mph (1,110km/h)
  • fastest freefall – Baumgartner broke the speed of sound, reaching a top speed of 834mph (1,342km/h) = velocity 373 meters per second = Mach 1.24

There was one for YouTube too, with over seven million viewers around the world hooking up to its live stream of the jump.

supersonic skydiver jumps from edge of space and lives to tell the tale baumgartner

Just prior to stepping off his capsule at 128,000 feet, Baumgartner saluted the camera and said, “Sometimes you have to go up really high to realise how small you are.” And then he was on his way.

There was a worrying 20 or seconds or so where Baumgartner spun out of control, seemingly unable to stabilize himself. Such a spin could have caused him to lose consciousness. When he eventually managed to control his fall, applause filled mission control. Next, Baumgartner was heard to say something, but it was hard to understand – hardly surprising considering the speed of his descent. Whatever it was, it sounded like a full sentence rather than a scream of terror. Things were looking up.

The 43-year-old daredevil was in freefall for a distance of 119,864 feet for four minutes and 19 seconds, leaving him 17 seconds short of snapping up another record, for longest freefall. In his 1960 jump, Kittinger’s freefall lasted four minutes and 36 seconds.supersonic skydiver jumps from edge of space and lives to tell the tale baumgartner capsule

Baumgartner executed a perfect landing, touching down on both feet before dropping to his knees and raising his arms aloft in celebration.

In a press conference following the successful jump, the Austrian told reporters, “When I was standing there on top of the world so humble, you are not thinking about breaking records. I was thinking about coming back alive. You do not want to die in front of your parents and all these people….I thought ‘please God, don’t let me down.’”

Baumgartner and his team knew the jump was fraught with danger. The uncontrolled spin was one of several problems they had considered. If his special space suit had ripped on his descent, his oxygen supply could’ve been destroyed, with potentially lethal bubbles forming in his blood.

As for breaking the speed of sound – no one really knew what would happen. In the event, Baumgartner said that although he went faster than the speed of sound, he “didn’t feel a thing.” He said the team would have to look at the data to find out at exactly what point it happened.

supersonic skydiver jumps from edge of space and lives to tell the tale baumgartner landing

In the end, there was one problem that could’ve caused the mission to be aborted. As Baumgartner was taken higher in his capsule by a 700-foot-high helium-filled balloon, a heater in his helmet faceplate stopped working, causing it to become fogged when he exhaled. After some consideration, it was decided to go ahead with the jump as planned.

“Even on a day like this when you start so well, then there’s a little glitch…and you think you’ll have to abort – what if you’ve prepared everything and it fails on a visor problem. But I finally decided to jump. And it was the right decision.”

Before Baumgartner’s daredevil leap, Art Thompson, the technical project director of Red Bull Stratos, told the BBC that any records achieved during the jump were incidental. “The function of this entire program is from a scientific point of view,” he said. “When you look at the accidents like with Columbia or Challenger, we believe that you’re actually capable of exiting a vehicle at high speed and capable of understanding how to control your descent.” NASA was reportedly watching Baumgartner’s jump with great interest, and will no doubt be keen to take a close look at the data garnered from the feat.

Though Baumgartner will be mightily relieved to have landed safely back on Earth, it probably won’t be long before the thrill seeker comes up with another plan to keep the adrenaline coursing through his veins.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Deals

REI drops deals on Garmin Fenix 5 and Vivoactive 3 smartwatches

Garmin's activity trackers offer a lot of advantages for health-conscious individuals and outdoor adventurers, and with spring finally here, now’s a fine time to jump on the smartwatch bandwagon. REI’s Garmin sale is the perfect chance…
Movies & TV

Want free movie tickets? Beam these ads into your eyeballs for 15 minutes

Would you watch ads for 20 minutes to earn a free movie ticket? MoviePass co-founder Stacy Spikes bets you will, and he's launching PreShow, a new app with some pretty advanced technology, to prove it.
Gaming

Get a head start mastering Apex Legend's newest character Octane with our guide

Apex Legends' newest legend Octane ran so fast in the Titanfall 2 gauntlet that he blew off his legs. Now dropping into Kings Canyon with prosthetics, Octane's ability set is still centered around speed. Here's how to play as Octane.
Emerging Tech

Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

The Japanese Space Agency has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.
Emerging Tech

Chilean telescope uncovers one of the oldest star clusters in the galaxy

An ultra-high definition image captured by the Gemini South telescope in Chile has uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way. The cluster, called HP 1, could give clues to how our galaxy was formed billions of years ago.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover giant chimneys spewing energy from the center of the galaxy

Astronomers have discovered two exhaust channels which are funneling matter and energy away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy and out towards the edges of the galaxy, dubbed galactic center chimneys.
Emerging Tech

A milestone in the history of particle physics: Why does matter exist?

If matter and antimatter were both produced in equal amounts by the Big Bang, why is there so much matter around us and so little antimatter? A new experiment from CERN may hold the answer to this decades-long puzzle.
Emerging Tech

Dublin Airport has a novel idea for tackling rogue drones

There are a growing number of technology-based solutions for dealing with rogue drones flying near airports, but officials at Dublin Airport have come up with another idea for keeping the skies safe.
Emerging Tech

This sleek new exoskeleton makes walking easier, fits under your clothes

A new ankle exoskeleton that is designed to be worn under clothes can help people to walk without fatiguing — and without restricting natural motion or drawing attention to itself.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s latest breakthrough could make DNA-based data centers possible

Could tomorrow's data centers possibly store information in the form of synthetic DNA? Researchers from Microsoft have successfully encoded the word "hello" into DNA and then back again.
Emerging Tech

Here are the best (and least likely to explode) hoverboards you can buy

With widespread reports of cheap, knock-off Chinese hoverboards exploding, these self-balancing scooters may be getting a rough reputation. They're not all bad, though. Ride in style with our picks for the best -- and safest -- hoverboards