Action sports are all about pushing the boundaries of what the human body is physically capable of achieving, when pitted against gravity and the environment. By exhibiting a mastery of balance and motion, there are certain individuals who possess the ability to visualize their next feat before it was ever thought possible (or had a chance to be called impossible). Red Bull has always been known as a company that embraces those that seek to fly, but when it comes to the Red Bull Stratos Program, this time they’ve taken the slogan, “Red Bull gives you wiings”, literally.
Red Bull and Felix Baumgartner made history today when the Austrian skydiving expert successfully completed a jump from the Earth’s stratosphere. Using a helium-filled balloon, Baumgartner traveled vertical 128,100 feet in an attempt to break multiple world freefall records, including being the first human to break the speed of sound during a freefall!
At 9am EST, Felix jumped out of his craft at approximately 96,000 feet (24 miles) above the ground. During the descent, he reached an estimated velocity of 600+ mph (Mach 1.24), achieving the monumental feat of breaking the sound barrier without being propelled by a vehicle. He also achieved world records for highest freefall and highest manned balloon flight.
Red Bull Stratos is the star-project for the action sports company, and has been in the works for over five years. The objective is to improve the scientific community’s understanding of how space affects the human body, and observe how it copes with some of the most extreme conditions imaginable.
After being delayed for several days due to weather related concerns, the Red Bull Stratos mission went off today — relatively without a hitch. Under clear blue skies, with the eyes of the world watching online via a live stream online and on broadcast television the mission was given the green light. Felix Baumgartner donned his cutting edge space suit, strapped into his capsule and began his ascent to the edge of space. Once Felix stepped out of the capsule, he began his 4:20 minute long freefall back to the Red Bull launch site located in Roswell, New Mexico.
Despite its success, there were a few instances that caused the Stratos Mission Control crew to gasp. Not only did they have to manage logistics which were constantly at the constant mercy of weather conditions, there was a mission-critical power failure in Felix’s visor heater that resulted in a visibility impairing fog-up. Then just before he pulled his parachute, Baumgartner became locked in a rapid spin that made for a hair-raising moment for everyone on the ground. Luckily, Felix regained control and was able to pull his chute release with plenty of distance from the ground.
“It was an incredible up and down today, just like it’s been with the whole project,” a relieved Baumgartner said. “First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor. The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I’d just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I’d lose consciousness. I didn’t feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We’ll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”
The Red Bull Stratos mission seeks to build upon the foundation established by NASA’s manned space program. The new data gathered today hopes to fuel and inspire the continued development of our space faring society. Currently, all data is awaiting confirmation from authorized governing bodies, and all record claims are pending. Upon a full analysis, we will know the exact height reached and speed achieved during the mission. One thing is for sure; October 14th, 2012 will be regarded as a momentous day in humanity’s history.