Not to be outdone by the Mountain Dew punks with their extreme sports ads, Red Bull has sponsored a record breaking event, what they call a “Stratos jump” from 128,000 feet up in the stratosphere, but what many are calling a “space jump.” The jumper, Felix Baumgartner, “Fearless Felix” certainly looked spaced up in his astronaut inspired suit. Already a record-setting high-altitude jumper, this latest jump, which he says marks the end of his altitude defying career, brought him down to the earth after 4 minute 20 second freefall at Mach 1.24 (about 834 mph), followed by a parachute loft, rendering him the first man outside of an aircraft to break the sound barrier.
Baumgartner says the event was seven years in the making; and after last weeks failed launch attempt, due to weather, it was seven years and a week. After plummeting to the earth from the highest manned-balloon flight, he gracefully parachuted down to earth, landing on terra firma without a stumble. His 24 mile fall was witnessed by seven-million people live on YouTube, who watches as his helium balloon slowly tugged him into the stratosphere, with a belabored anticipation much more unnerving then the slow tic-tic-ticking of a roller coaster mounting its first plummet, after which he muttered for the world to hear, “I’m coming home,” and then leapt out of the stratosphere and into the record books.
Recounting his plight, Baumgartner said, “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 achievement documents yet another way mankind attempts to surpass its own limitations.