Austrian daredevil succeeds in space jump
15 October, 2012
LOS ANGELES: Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner made a record-breaking leap from the edge of space on Sunday, landing safely in the New Mexico desert after freefalling from more than 24 miles above the earth.
The 43-year-old floated down to earth on a red and white parachute canopy, which he had opened after reaching speeds of more than 700 miles per hour in freefall. Mission control erupted in cheers as Baumgartner made a near-perfect jump from a capsule hoisted aloft by a giant helium-filled balloon to an altitude of around 128,000 feet.
"Sometimes you have (go) up really high to (realise) how small you are," Baumgartner said shortly before he jumped, watched in live footage beamed around the world. He had taken more than two hours to get up to the jump altitude.
Baumgartner had already broken one record, before he even leapt: the previous highest altitude for a manned balloon flight was 113,740 feet, set in 1961.
The Austrian had been due to jump from 120,000 feet, but the balloon went higher than expected, to more than 24 miles. The Red Bull Stratos mission was the second attempt for the skydiver after an initial bid last week was aborted at the last minute due to winds.
The biggest risk Baumgartner faced was spinning out of control, which could exert G forces and make him lose consciousness. A controlled dive from the capsule was essential, putting him in a head-down position to increase speed. More gruesomely, the skydiver's blood could have boiled if there were the slightest tear or crack in his pressurized spacesuit-like outfit, due to instant depressurisation at the extreme altitude.
Temperatures of 90 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 68 Celsius) could also have had unpredictable consequences if his suit somehow failed.