About four years ago, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner ascended to the edge of space, some 39 000 metres above ground, in a capsule attached to a helium balloon, and jumped, freefalling towards Earth at supersonic speeds. An incredible eight million people signed into YouTube on 14 October 2012 to witness live the moment Felix did a freefall parachute jump smashing through eight world records and the sound barrier all in one go.
The jump marked the end of a seven-year road for technical director Art Thompson, who conceived of the idea in 2005 and wrote an 87-page mission proposal to Red Bull. The company agreed to it in 2007, and by the next year, the team had started building the capsule and training Baumgartner. The five-year training program was necessary to ensure Baumgartner’s safety during the death-defying jump. There were many dangers he could have encountered during the mission, said Thompson, from the jet stream shearing off the top of the balloon during ascent to spinning out of control during the freefall.
Felix Baumgartner’s Record Breaking:
Felix Baumgartner was also chasing the record for highest freefall distance, which could be measured from his initial jump point, at 39 043 meters, to the moment he opened his ripcord — at 2 514 meters above sea level. The total free fall distance — 36 529 meters — eclipsed the previous record of 31 333 meters by more than three miles. That earlier record was set in 1960 by U.S. Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, who was, incidentally, the man on the other end of Baumgartner’s microphone at Mission Control in Roswell, N.M. The 84-year-old retired colonel served as Baumgartner’s mentor throughout the preparation process and his adviser throughout the flight.