Last March, 43-year old Austrian daredevil BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner made headlines when he skydived from an altitude of just over 71,000 feet, a jump that was only a prelude to his ultimate record setting goal. This past Wednesday, July 25, he came one step closer to that goal with a successful second jump, this time from an altitude of 96,640 feet – over 18 miles high.
Baumgartner jumped from a custom made pressurized capsule, which was carried aloft in the skies over Roswell, New Mexico by a 100-foot helium balloon. The man known as “Fearless Felix” is already in an exclusive club, as he is only the third person in history to have ever jumped from an altitude higher than 70,000 feet. Before his jump last March, the first of three planned jumps, his personal best was 30,000 feet.
Wednesday’s jump was another practice run, a dress rehearsal for his planned record setting dive from 120,000 feet planned for August or September, one in which he expects to become the first person to ever free fall through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds. The current record is held by retired Air Force Colonel Joe Kittenger, who jumped from an altitude of 102,800 feet in 1960 as part of Project Excelsior – a program carried out by the U.S. Air Force to design a parachute system which would allow safe descent for flight crews who ejected from their aircraft at high altitudes. Kittinger also set records for the longest parachute drogue fall and still holds the record for the fastest human free fall.
Baumgartner descended through the skies for nearly 11 minutes, flying in his pressurized flight suit through the coldest part of the atmosphere where temperatures as low as -94 Fahrenheit are typical. He was in free fall for 3 minutes and 48 seconds before deploying his parachutes. Typical cruising altitude for commercial airlines is 30,000 feet, Baumgartner jumped from nearly three times higher – most aircraft cannot even fly at such a high altitude. Joe Kittenger himself, one of Baumgartner’s biggest supporters, monitored it all from a mini mission control at the Roswell launch site.
Red Bull Stratos is sponsoring Baumgartner is his quest to make history.
The daredevil is no stranger to the world of skydiving and base-jumping – he has jumped 2,500 times from various aircraft as well as from some of the highest landmarks, natural and man-made, in the world. He has even dived into the Earth, having jumped over 600 feet into a pitch black cave in Croatia.
The ultimate record setting goal, a jump from over 120,000 feet, is expected to take place in August or September.
For more information on the Red Bull Stratos project sponsoring Baumgartner’s quest for the record books please visit www.redbullstratos.com