It’s a bird… It’s a plane… no, it’s just some guy skydiving from 23 miles out of the Earth’s stratosphere. Seriously, that may be what you hear this summer when Austrian skydiver, Felix Baumgartner, attempts to break the world record’s longest jump by freefalling 120,000 feet.
The jump will take place over Roswell, N.M., which somehow seems fitting, and must be executed according to a strict plan. During an interview with NPR, Baumgartner explained the details of his preparation saying,
“I show up at 2 o’clock in the morning, so the first thing that we’re going to do is a medical check. Then I’m getting dressed up. My suit guy, he’s dressing me up, which is a really serious moment because my suit is the only thing that protects me as soon as I leave my space capsule. Then I have to breathe pure – 100 percent oxygen to get rid of all the nitrogen bubbles in my blood system. If the balloon is ready to launch, I’m getting into the capsule itself, then it takes another two hours and a half until I reach altitude.” *
Baumgartner continued to describe how the suit will also need to be pressurized at the same moment to prevent his blood from “boiling” during the jump, and once all systems are in alignment, he must make his leap immediately, no time for hesitation, because he’s only equipped with 10 minutes of oxygen. Of course, 10 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re falling at speeds of over 700 miles per hour (breaking the sound barrier) that’s about all the time you need.
With so many risks, this is really an all-or-nothing stunt, but Baumgartner feels confident and is no stranger to the world of skydiving as he’s already completed a drop of over 72,000 feet and gone through many test jumps.
Besides breaking the longest jump record (currently held by Col. Joe Kittinger from his 102,000-foot jump in 1960), he also plans to set new records for the first person to break the sound barrier out of an aircraft, the highest manned balloon flight, and the longest free fall.
Additionally, Baumgartner hopes his jump will help scientists better understand the effects our atmosphere’s extreme environment has on the human body.
What’s your opinion? Does Baumgartner have a worthwhile goal, or does he have too much time, money, or both on his hands?