Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgarter took ‘extreme sports’ to a new level yesterday with a record breaking freefall from the very edge of space. The 43 year old is thought to have reached a speed of 1137km/h as he plummeted over 39 kilometres to the safety of the New Mexico desert.
His safe landing brought about euphoric celebrations from all involved in the Red Bull Stratos mission as the historic attempt was finally a success. The first attempt last week was aborted due to concerns over wind conditions.
Baumgartner was taken to his starting point in a capsule attached to a giant balloon filled with helium. He has been supported in his attempt by a one hundred strong team, including the man who’s record he finally eclipsed – US Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger. It was Kittinger’s freefall of 31 kilometres over 50 years ago which has been the benchmark for freefalling.
The risks of such an attempt cannot be under-stated, and Baumgartner had trained for 5 years for this one jump. If his body position for the dive was incorrect he faced spinning out of control. The G Forces exerted on his body in such a scenario would have almost certainly seen him lose consciousness. With temperatures reaching -70°C, any damage or tear in the Austrian’s spacesuit would also have been catastrophic.
In all the jump lasted just over 9 minutes, of which 4 minutes and 19 seconds were spent in freefall. Baumgarter had already completed an historic base jump from the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue in Rio, but this was by far his greatest achievement to date. Talking to journalists prior to his attempt, Baumgartner admitted he would be extremely proud to be the first person to break the speed of sound in a freefall jump. However he was keen to explain that the project has other implications going forward. “I know that part of this entire experience will help make the next pressure suit safer for space tourists and aviators” he stated.
It really was a case of ‘one large leap for man, one large leap for mankind!’