To be honest, I’m a little impressed that people are still talking about this. I’m happy that this achievement has not been easily forgotten as quickly as many of the other internet sensations have over the years. I’ve been following the Red Bull Stratos for quite a while now, and it was truly breathtaking to finally watch that madman Felix Baumgartner jump out of a perfectly good space capsule and plummet towards the earth a 1300 km/h. Wearing a special pressure suit, this man broke the sound barrier without the use of a vehicle – a first for human kind – by leaping from a capsule at an altitude of 128,000 feet.
In case you were wondering, he was able to achieve these speeds because the air pressure at 128,000 feet is far less than at the earth’s surface. Had he jumped from a normal sky-diving height, his terminal velocity would have been around 200 km/h due to the drag caused by all that air he has to move through. But the lack of air at such a high altitude allowed him to reach breakneck speeds from a height that only two other human beings have ever successfully parachuted from. One of them, Joseph Kittinger, was even on the ground guiding him on the mission:
First of all, this man JUMPED from higher than I sent my balloon last summer. He saw with his own eyes something that my project partner and I were only able to capture using the meagre electronic equipment we could get our hands on. I have nothing but respect and admiration for this man. His jump broke several records, including highest altitude skydive, highest altitude manned balloon flight, longest free fall without a drogue chute, and becoming the world’s first supersonic skydiver.
Interestingly, it also set the record on youtube for “live stream with the most concurrent views ever on YouTube”. Between this and the Curiosity landing on Mars, it warms my heart to see that topics relating science and space travel are becoming viral topics on the internet. What I like even more, is that millions of dollars of corporate sponsorship money was put towards sending something to space (or close to it anyway). I even thought that Red Bull handled their branding of the project rather tactfully. There were no flashy Red Bull ads interfering with the streams. No constant in-your-face reminders that a faceless corporation had shelled out the cash for this thing. Just a few surprisingly not large, smartly placed logos – one on the capsule, one on his helmet, and one on the website. Rather than overload us with messages about how Red Bull gives you wings (I have a suspicion that a lot of people spent a lot of time trying to figure out clever ways to be funny with that line), they put a serious focus on a dangerous and potentially death-defying stunt being watched live by millions of people.
And as if they couldn’t sweeten this project any more, the data that was collected combined by the research and development for the jump itself will be invaluable in the creation of the next generation of space suits, help us better understand the effects on the body at supersonic speeds, and aid in the development of emergency bail-out procedures for astronauts and pilots. Felix Baumgartner is a new personal hero of mine. And Red Bull gained some serious respect in my opinion for contributing so such an insane and scientifically beneficial feat.