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Skydiving from 71,500 feet: Red Bull Stratos test jump a success

Skydiving from 71,500 feet: Re...
Felix Baumgartner stares down the barrel of the first test jump in the Red Bull Stratos project (Photo: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull)
Felix Baumgartner stares down the barrel of the first test jump in the Red Bull Stratos project (Photo: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull)
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Inside the pressure sphere (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
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Inside the pressure sphere (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
Words of advice from the only person who has been there, done that - Joe Kittinger (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
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Words of advice from the only person who has been there, done that - Joe Kittinger (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
Joe Kittinger (Photo: Francois Portmann/Red Bull)
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Joe Kittinger (Photo: Francois Portmann/Red Bull)
Baumgartner's high tech gear is a far cry from Kittinger's 1950's Air Force issue high altitude suit
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Baumgartner's high tech gear is a far cry from Kittinger's 1950's Air Force issue high altitude suit
Col. Joe Kittinger's leap of faith
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Col. Joe Kittinger's leap of faith
Felix Baumgartner contemplates breaking the sound barrier, free-falling from the edge of space (Photo: Red Bull)
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Felix Baumgartner contemplates breaking the sound barrier, free-falling from the edge of space (Photo: Red Bull)
The capsule will hangs 150 feet below the helium-filled balloon (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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The capsule will hangs 150 feet below the helium-filled balloon (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
Felix Baumgartner suited up for the 71,500 ft jump (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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Felix Baumgartner suited up for the 71,500 ft jump (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
Felix Baumgartner and life support engineer Mike Todd (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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Felix Baumgartner and life support engineer Mike Todd (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
Felix Baumgartner stares down the barrel of the first test jump in the Red Bull Stratos project (Photo: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull)
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Felix Baumgartner stares down the barrel of the first test jump in the Red Bull Stratos project (Photo: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull)
Inside the capsule (Photo: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull)
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Inside the capsule (Photo: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull)
Preparation for launch (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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Preparation for launch (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
Mission control at Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Stefan Aufschnaiter/Red Bull)
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Mission control at Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Stefan Aufschnaiter/Red Bull)
Baumgartner after the Brooks chamber test for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
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Baumgartner after the Brooks chamber test for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
The view from the capsule during ascent (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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The view from the capsule during ascent (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
Baumgartner during a low-level test jump (Photo: Luke Aikins/Red Bull)
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Baumgartner during a low-level test jump (Photo: Luke Aikins/Red Bull)
Capsule control panel (Photo: balazsgardi.com/Red Bull)
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Capsule control panel (Photo: balazsgardi.com/Red Bull)
The interior of the capsule for the Red Bull Stratos mission (Photo: balazsgardi.com/Red Bull)
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The interior of the capsule for the Red Bull Stratos mission (Photo: balazsgardi.com/Red Bull)
USAF colonel (ret.) Joe Kittinger during his final inspection of the capsule for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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USAF colonel (ret.) Joe Kittinger during his final inspection of the capsule for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
Baumgartner enters the capsule (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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Baumgartner enters the capsule (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
The ascent begins (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
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The ascent begins (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
Baumgartner lands safely (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
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Baumgartner lands safely (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
Felix Baumgartner prepares for the jump (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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Felix Baumgartner prepares for the jump (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
The balloon launch during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
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The balloon launch during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
Red Bull Stratos mission consultant Colonel (ret.) Joe Kittinger (Photo: Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull)
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Red Bull Stratos mission consultant Colonel (ret.) Joe Kittinger (Photo: Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull)
The Balloon ascands during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
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The Balloon ascands during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico (Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull)
View gallery - 26 images

Daring Austrian base-jumper and skydiver Felix Baumgartner is aiming to break a record that has stood for almost 52 years. In fact he is aiming to break four long established records, starting with world's highest manned balloon flight (120,000 feet or 36,576 meters) highest skydive (currently 102,000 feet ) and the longest freefall, which may well see him break the sound barrier as he plummets for nearly 23 miles (37 km) towards Earth. Last week Baumgartner jumped from 71,581 feet in the first manned flight test by the Red Bull Stratos project, but to reach its ultimate goal the team must beat Joe Kittinger's record for the highest freefall set in August, 1960.

A record that's tough to beat

Kittinger is amazing. He is not only an advisor to the Red Bull team, but is a decorated military pilot as well as the first person to cross the Atlantic solo in a gas balloon. His career includes three combat tours of Vietnam, before he was shot down and spent 11 months as a POW, eventually returning to the USA and retiring as a colonel in the Air Force in 1978. He is still an active pilot, but best remembered for his part in the research into high altitude bale-outs.

Baumgartner's high tech gear is a far cry from Kittinger's 1950's Air Force issue high altitude suit
Baumgartner's high tech gear is a far cry from Kittinger's 1950's Air Force issue high altitude suit

Leaping from his open gondola at 76,400 feet (23,300 m) on November 16, 1959, Kittinger's very first high altitude jump nearly ended in disaster as he lost consciousness and went into a flat spin that was calculated to have exerted 22 times the force of gravity on his extremities. Fortunately his parachute opened automatically and a year later, he made his final jump from an altitude of 102,800 feet (31,300 m), reaching a speed of 614 mph (988 km/h). During this jump his pressurized right hand glove failed and in the rarefied atmosphere his hand swelled to about double normal size, but he completed the jump to set records for the highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall, and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.

Col. Joe Kittinger's leap of faith
Col. Joe Kittinger's leap of faith

Baumgartner's 71,581 feet test jump

Fast forward 52 years, and the Red Bull Stratos team has just spent five years developing its state-of-the-art, pressurized life-support capsule and space suit, intent on breaking Kittinger's records. Weighing 2,900 pounds (1,315 kilograms) 11 feet (3.4 m) high by 8 feet (2.4 m) wide, the capsule hangs approximately 150 feet (46 m) below the helium-filled balloon which will take it to the edge of space. When Baumgartner jumps, the capsule releases the balloon and returns to Earth via its own parachute. As he leaves the safety of the capsule, Baumgartner relies on his special space suit to protect him from the minus 70 degree F outside temperature.

The balloon launch during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
The balloon launch during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)

The Red Bull Stratos team's first manned test flight took place on March 15 over the New Mexico desert. During the jump from 71,580 feet, Baumgartner hit speeds of almost 365 miles per hour and spent 3 minutes and 33 seconds in freefall before his chute opened at 7,890 feet.

The jump went "exactly as planned" although combating the extreme temperatures remains a challenge. "I could hardly move my hands," said Baumgartner. "We're going to have to do some work on that aspect."

Inside the capsule (Photo: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull)
Inside the capsule (Photo: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull)

Although just a stepping stone towards the 23 mile main event, this successful test means that Baumgartner joins Kittinger and Russia’s Eugene Andreev as only the third person to leap from that altitude and survive.

Another test from the altitude of 90,000 feet is planned before Baumgartner and the Stratos shoot for the record later this year ... and there will be one man with his fingers firmly crossed.

USAF colonel (ret.) Joe Kittinger during his final inspection of the capsule for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)
USAF colonel (ret.) Joe Kittinger during his final inspection of the capsule for Red Bull Stratos (Photo: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull)

Source: Red Bull

View gallery - 26 images
20 comments
20 comments
Mr Stiffy
That is one of the few things I REALLY want to do....
Absolutely.
(5 miles of brown paper, 100 gallons of paper glue, 10 miles of string...... etc.)
Jesse Jones
I may be wrong, but I think that something known as "terminal velocity" will prevent him from getting anywhere near the sound barrier.
Christopher Porozny
Sign me up. Please. Pretty please. With cherries.
Ross Jenkins
In normal atmospheric pressure the max speed a skydiver can reach is only about 130mph. But way up at that altitude where the air is thinner he could reach much more than that. Also when his body does break the sound barrier it will be less stress on him, again due to air density.
MQ
Speed of sound in space = 0 m/s Speed of Sound at 102000 ft (31090m) = 327 m/s Speed of Sound at sea level = 343 m/s (Woolfram alpha)
Um 100k ft is not even half way to space...
Still plenty of air resistance....
Maybe he can get to 300 miles per hour (133 m/s)
Still a long way to Speed of sound....
Like to hear the boom...
Also, Probably the sonic buffet would vibrate a human body to pieces, and if not, merely kill the person...
We all need adventurers to do the things we can't afford to do.
Robt
@MD The article states that Kittinger reached 614mph in his jump from 102,800ft
Brillig
According to this article, he achieved 690mph shortly after jumping. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/science/16tier.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general There was a program on television (don't remember which) that estimated he topped out at around 800mph.
TagUrIt9000
Why, with 26 pictures attached to this article, is there not a single one of him actually jumping from 71K feet?
Nelson
What a supreme waste of resources!
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
It isn't a waste of resources at all if you stop looking at this through the eyes of a commoner. Sure it's an absolute thrill if you were the one to jump and set a new record. But the important thing is to learn the effects and the extent of it to a human being who free falls at such height, with a pressurized suit of course. That knowledge will come to use when astronauts need to make an emergency jump at such heights mid flight or return.