Alan Eustace rises to record balloon height hanging in his space suit

Alan Eustace rises to record balloon height hanging in his space suit

Well records are made to be broken. I wrote about Felix Baumgartner’s highest-ever balloon ascent in 2012, when he reached 127,851 feet, which is almost 24 miles. It was an exciting and televised event that was called the Red Bull Stratos and had Felix rising inside a capsule that he opened and jumped out of.

But I learned recently that last April 14th, Google executive Alan Eustace rose higher, suspended from another balloon in his space suit as part of the Paragon StratEx (stratospheric explorer) project. Alan released himself at 135,899 feet and made it back safely after a free fall descent and then a parachute.

You can learn more at the StratEx web site and also in this NY Times article .

For a little over two hours, the balloon ascended at speeds up to 1,600 feet per minute to an altitude of more than 25 miles. Mr. Eustace dangled underneath in a specially designed spacesuit with an elaborate life-support system. He returned to earth just 15 minutes after starting his fall.

“It was amazing,” he said. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.”

Mr. Eustace cut himself loose from the balloon with the aid of a small explosive device and plummeted toward the earth at speeds that peaked at 822 miles per hour, setting off a small sonic boom heard by people on the ground.

Below is the short video available, and a longer documentary is in production. I learned about this achievement from one of the team members who was involved, and her enthusiasm and pride were very exciting to encounter first hand.

Imagine what it must have been like for Alan to say, “Well guys, I am going to take a few days off from work to jump into the atmosphere from 25 miles up. Hope I see you on Monday!”