On Sunday, October 14th, over eight million people tuned in to YouTube to watch Felix Baumgartner as he attempted his historic leap from the edge of Space - And they were not disappointed. Not only did the 43-year old daredevil complete the jump as planned, at the end of the epic event, he simply got up and walked over to greet his cheering fans.
The exciting event began to unfold at about 11.30 am EST when Felix's 550-foot tall helium balloon, took off from New Mexico. The audience watched breathlessly as it turned into a tiny speck before completely disappearing into the blue skies. The skydiver encountered his first hurdle when he got to 62,000 feet, an area scientists often refer to as the Armstrong limit. This is where the atmospheric pressure is so low that if not protected adequately, human blood starts to to boil. While Felix was fine, his faceplate visor, designed to make sure he had full vision at all times, began to fog up.
However, there was not much that could be done, especially given that the helium balloon kept rising higher and higher and then at 2.08 EST, 128,000 feet above the ground came the moment everybody had been waiting for. Felix opened the door of his capsule and prepared to jump out! Given the amount of things that could still go wrong and the fact that his visor was a little fogged up, we cannot even begin to guess his mindset at that particular moment.
But as promised, after uttering the words 'I am coming home', the fearless man jumped off and for a few heart-stopping moments disappeared from sight. According to Felix, while the exit was perfect, it was extremely difficult to control his body from spinning out of control because he was hurtling down so rapidly. He knew that he had to do something to stabilize himself quickly or risk losing consciousness, which would have been fatal. While he managed to do it, he says it was much harder than he had thought it would be and at times, extremely terrifying. In fact, so occupied was he that he didn't even know that he had broken the sound barrier until he was on the ground.
But thankfully, all went well and after 4 minutes 20 seconds of free-falling, Felix reached his parachute opening altitude of 5,000 feet and then gracefully glided down to his designated landing spot about 40 miles east of Roswell.
Upon completing the epic jump, Felix broke the record for the first man to free fall through the sound barrier, the highest manned flight and the man to jump from the highest altitude. The one record he did not break however, was the longest free fall. That still belongs to Joe Kittinger, who also leaped from Space, albeit from a lower altitude in 1960. But Felix is not disappointed - Three out of four is not bad especially given the fact that Kittinger is his mentor and was the person reassuring him as he made the leap down!
As for what you can expect from Baumgartner next? Not much because he apparently is retiring and now plans to do much tamer things like fly helicopters on mountain rescue and firefighting missions in the U.S. and Austria. We for one have to see that to believe it!
Resources: washingtonpost.com, huffingtonpost.com