Stratospheric Bravery

Felix Baumgartner
(Credit: Red Bull Stratos)

Look at that face. Does that look like the face of a man who is going to jump from 120,000 feet up  — in just a spacesuit?

That is just what 43-year-old Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner did today. Except his planned jump of 120,000 feet turned into nearly 128,000 feet — the man jumped from the freakin’ stratosphere! — and he broke the sound barrier doing it. Just wearing a bleeping spacesuit. Of course some say that it was a publicity stunt rather than a scientific endeavour, and yes, Felix is a daredevil and BASE (building, antennea, span and earth) jumper, but for the past few years, he’s been working with a team of scientists and sponsor Red Bull Stratos to achieve the highest recorded jump. So it wasn’t all for fun.

Still, let’s just say it was all an adrenaline rush for Felix. So what? His thrill-seeking is a bonus for scientists. Why? Two words: space travel.

Let’s just say that a crew — or tourists — are flying around, doing their space thing and something happens to their vehicle and it is unable or unsafe to return to Earth. Is there any way to save the people on board? Researchers, including NASA, want to know what is a survivable distance to jump — and what needs to be done to increase the odds of survival. Some even wonder if safety measures like jump suits had been in place if there could have been some hope — though minimal, given the circumstances — to save the Columbia astronauts when their shuttle burned up during re-entry in 2003.

This research is in its preliminary stages. I mean, Felix went straight up. His balloon and capsule were hovering far above the Earth for quite a while (with brief changes in elevation). But if you’re in a spacecraft, you’ll be whipping around the Earth at a breakneck speed of around  27,300 km/h (17,000 mph). That has got to change things just a bit. Still, what Felix did goes down in the history — and science — books.

To me, I marvel at what we humans are capable of doing. We take what is given us and we aim higher. Literally.

Ad astra.

To learn more about Felix and the Red Bull Stratos missions, visit

Making History

  • Felix’s jump broke the record of Joe Kittinger’s 1960 record-setting jump of 102,800 feet (31,333)
  • Felix reached a speed of 1,342.8 km/h (Mach 1.24) and jumped from the stratosphere
  • He broke the sound barrier- on the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s historic flight of the Bell X-1 when the sound barrier was first broken

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