On the left, Felix Baumgartner salutes as he starts his walk towards his space capsule in Roswell, New Mexico, on March 15. On the right, the moment before he jumped from 21km up in the sky. That photo alone blows my mind.
The 42-year-old Baumgartner — in a fully pressurised jump suit — got into his specially designed capsule to reach the 21.8km-mark in the first successful test towards his world record-breaking space jump. The capsule, attached to a 30.5m-wide helium balloon, only took him to 21,818m, dropping in free fall for three minutes and 43 seconds, and reaching a speed of 586.4km/h.
To give you an idea of how amazing this is already, a Boeing 747 normally flies at about 14,000m.
And yet, this is nothing compared to what is coming. Baumgartner wants to jump from an altitude of 37km. When he does that, he will fall for an estimated five minutes and 30 seconds, breaking the speed of sound in the process. After flying at Mach 1 for a while, he will his parachute at 1.5km. If everything goes OK, he will reach the ground 10 minutes later.
When he does that this summer, after another test jump at 27,432m, he will break the record set by United States Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger on August 16, 1960. Kittinger jumped from the Excelsior III balloon, which at the time was flying at 31km up in the sky. Kittinger didn't have all the fancy equipment that Baumgartner is using, but it doesn't matter.
Both of them are as gloriously crazy as the first astronauts. Well done, Fearless Felix, and godspeed for the next jump! [Red Bull Stratos]