10 years after historic record-breaking freefall, Red Bull releases never-before-seen visuals of the mission
On August 16, 1960, Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger Jr jumped from a helium-balloon-tethered gondola that was 102,800 feet above the Earth. With a free fall lasting four minutes and 36 seconds for 102,800 feet (31,333 m), Kittinger traveled at more than 600 mph (966 kph) before he opened his parachute at around 14,000 feet (4,267 m).
Fifty-two years later, on October 14, 2012, Austrian skydiver and daredevil Felix Baumgartner, in a mission called Red Bull Stratos, rode a capsule under a helium balloon to the edge of space, 127,852 feet (38,969 m) above Earth. He free fell for a record of 119,431 feet (36,403 m), breaking Kittinger's record and breaking the sound barrier (Mach 1.25). With millions of people watching him on live television, his parachute deployed at 8,400 feet (2,560 m), and he touched the ground safely.
Ten years later, Red Bull released a 10th-anniversary documentary, 'SPACE JUMP: How Red Bull Stratos captured the world’s attention featuring never-before-seen images and perspectives, celebrating one man's grit and legacy of the mission.
A stunt out of this world
The project, which was expected to take only 24 months, took several years. "We thought, we’re going to build the capsule, build the pressure suit, practice for a while, and then we go all the way up to the stratosphere and come back to Earth at supersonic speed," Baumgartner told CNN.
Eventually, the stunt largely influenced the world and scientific research, "including notable insights for aerospace programs and space technology," according to a press release.
"The effect that it had globally on education and on the next generation wanting to become aerospace or flight test engineers was huge," Art Thompson, technical project director, said in a statement. "Additionally, the life support system that we designed on the capsule, we used that technology and data to change the configuration for life support for [high altitude jets including] the U-2."
In an interview with Forbes, Baumgartner said: "It’s interesting to me that after ten years, there’s still so much enthusiasm, appreciation, and respect for what we accomplished. That means we did something right."
Forbes journalist Jim Clash asked the daredevil what the view from the edge of space was. To which Baumgartner said, "The sky becomes really black. You’ve left the atmosphere behind and are in the stratosphere. It’s a very unforgiving, hostile environment. Will you spin? Can you stop it? What will happen when you go supersonic? The view is one thing, all of the unanswered questions another. So you step off, accelerate like crazy into the unknown and see what’s going to happen."
Breaking the speed of sound
Everything wasn't as smooth.
Moments after Baumgartner entered freefall, as he accelerated to the speed of sound, the skydiver kept rapidly spinning horizontally. Such a spin can lead to loss of consciousness, which can result in the skydiver being unable to pull the parachute. Fortunately, Baumgartner had done a few jumps at lower altitudes and was experienced. He regained consciousness in time, exited the spin, and pulled the chute to safety.
"Once I opened my parachute and opened my visor, this was the first moment after seven hours where I was breathing outside air. I was reconnected to the outside world, and that was a very happy moment. The only thing that I didn’t know when I landed was: did I break the speed of sound? Because, once you’re in freefall, you know you’re fast, but you have absolutely no indication of how fast you actually are," he said.
Since the mission, Baumgartner has piloted a stunt helicopter in air shows - he also continues to perform his base-jumping stunts. Today, he is one of only a handful of aerobatic helicopter pilots worldwide.
Guess there's nothing else in the world that can make a daredevil feel more alive.
Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Evan Pugh University Professor, has received a $300,000 grant from the Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center to explore a technique for creating 3D holograms of fingerprints.