Posts Tagged Felix Baumgartner

Alan Eustace Sky Dives From Record Breaking 25 Miles

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!”

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When Our Gods Become Mortals

Felix Baumgartner in everyday clothes

Felix Baumgartner in everyday clothes

While watching a tennis match on TV recently, the camera suddenly focused on a familiar face in the stands. “I recognize that person,” I thought to myself, but couldn’t place him. Then the announcer said that he was Felix Baumgartner, the man who jumped last October out of a helium-filled balloon capsule from 24 miles high. He set all kinds of records. Millions of us watched the balloon’s launch and his jump over a few hours. It was thrilling, chilling and joyous.

jumping from 24 miles up

jumping from 24 miles up

We celebrated his courage, because he did something that none of us would do…nor even wanted to do. He risked his life and reputation…and now he is a guy watching a tennis match.

He was always just a guy with everyday life problems. He has to shower and dress himself. Earn money or manage what he has. Think up new challenges. Talk on the phone. Eat a meal.

Felix at work

Felix at work

But there was something quite disorienting for me to see this life-risking pioneer simply chatting away and watching live the same match I was watching on TV. If he was never my hero, I certainly applaud and admire his bravery and risk taking. I certainly admire his ability to organize the multi-million dollar program called Red Bull Stratos that built his equipment, his space suit, and launched him into space. And he was back being a mortal.

Maybe it was the life-risking part of the achievement that made his “ordinariness” so startling. When I see athletes who have aged since their glory days, so that they walk with a slower step or need assistance, I can accept readily their frailty and humanness. But something was different in viewing Felix being ordinary. Maybe you have a thought about what it was.

At the bottom of this page is a 90 second video of his momentous day last October. Enjoy it…

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Overcoming Your Fears

“Channel Your Fear Into Positive Energy” is a suggestion I have heard and attempted to apply for decades. You have that exciting tension that is outside of the normal sensation, and you have to break through some kind of barrier. I remember standing on the edge of a 20-foot-high diving board for half an hour when I was not yet a teen. I came down the steps…although I eventually climbed back up and jumped.

I remember standing in the open door of a military plane for five minutes as we approached the drop zone. What am I doing here, I wondered? Was I going to die in a few minutes? Then the green light came on, and the jumpmaster punched me in the butt and out into the air. I remember the next day in the plane, when a fellow jumper refused to go, after having a dream the night before that his mother was crying over his coffin. We all deal with fears somehow and to varying degrees. Some people can’t even watch others in risky or dangerous or death-defying situations. What are your thresholds?

Before yesterday, Felix Baumgartner said he was nervous about his leap from the stratosphere. But the 43-year-old daredevil—who has jumped from some of the world’s tallest buildings and soared across the English Channel in freefall using a carbon wing—regards a tinge of fear as a good thing.

“Having been involved in extreme endeavors for so long, I’ve learned to use my fear to my advantage,” Baumgartner said. “Fear has become a friend of mine. It’s what prevents me from stepping too far over the line.”

And from another article: A number of things could go wrong: his blood could boil, he could go into an uncontrolled spin and be knocked unconscious, he could smash into the ground.

Ironically, the one thing that the Austrian extremes-man feared the most was the full body gear that will ultimately protect him from all these terrible possibilities.

The New York Times’ John Tierny writes: Mr. Baumgartner, a former Austrian paratrooper who became known as Fearless Felix by leaping off buildings, landmarks and once into a 600-foot cave, said that this was his toughest challenge, because of the complexity involved and because of an unexpected fear he had to overcome: claustrophobia. During five years of training, he started suffering panic attacks when he had to spend hours locked inside the stiff pressurized suit and helmet necessary for survival at the edge of space

Baumgartner conquered his fear through therapy and guidance from 84-year-old Joseph Kittinger, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who jumped from 19.5 miles in 1960. Until Baumgartner’s successful jump is completed, Kittinger still holds the current world record for highest altitude parachute jump.

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Felix’s Record Free Fall Jump From 24 Miles High

Like millions of other viewers, I was riveted by Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting balloon ascent and free fall jump today. He rose above 24 miles during 2 1/2 hours, with the tension throughout of a malfunctioning heating element on his visor that might have cancelled the jump. He went anyway and had trouble seeing through the fogging on the way down.

The video above focusing on the two minutes before the jump gives you some idea of the meticulous attention needed for this five-year project to succeed.

Felix jumps from 24 miles high

The most exciting times for me were the actual jump (shown right) and the spin he went into when he hit air below the vacuum he jumped into. All that turning could have sent too much blood into his head, so that he would black out and not be able to deploy and guide his chute properly. But his years of experience jumping taught him how to recover to a stable situation. He said later that unlike normal jumps, his space suit this time prevented him from feeling the air to help him know what to do. It was like being in a cast.

Here is a link to a 90-second video of the day.

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October 8th Attempt To Break Four Skydiving/Balloon Flying Records

Here is a well-done animation of an upcoming, record-breaking attempt on October 8th: Felix Baumgartner is going to jump out of balloon from 120,000 feet (nearly 23 miles). If everything works out, this Austrian skydiving daredevil will shatter the marks for highest jump, fastest freefall, longest-duration freefall and highest manned balloon flight. He will also become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. You can read more about it here.

helium inflation of 55-story tall balloon

Baumgartner said he is nervous about Monday’s (October 8th, 8 am EDT) leap from the stratosphere. But the 43-year-old—who has jumped from some of the world’s tallest buildings and soared across the English Channel in freefall using a carbon wing—regards a tinge of fear as a good thing.

July landing

“Having been involved in extreme endeavors for so long, I’ve learned to use my fear to my advantage,” Baumgartner said. “Fear has become a friend of mine. It’s what prevents me from stepping too far over the line.”

The pictures are from a test flight this past July in which Felix jumped from “just” 18 miles.

mission summary

You can learn more about the actual jump here and follow it live with 35 cameras. Pretty exciting!

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