by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor
On Sunday morning, October 12, 2012, Felix Baumgartner climbed into the gondola of a gigantic helium balloon. The balloon carried him to 128,100 feet (39,045 meters, or 24.26 miles) altitude. Then he opened the door and stepped out.
This jump made him the highest skydiver ever, breaking the record set by his mentor, Joe Kittinger, in 1960. During his free fall through the thin outer layers of the atmosphere, Felix reached a speed of Mach 1.25, making him the first person ever to exceed the speed of sound without equipment.
I love it that Joe Kittinger himself did the CAPCOM for this jump. I have seen Kittinger’s gear on display in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. I was in awe then. Even more so now. I don’t do parachute jumps, but I know a lot more about the dangers of high altitude flight than most people. When he unplugs the oxygen system, my heart skipped a beat. Part way through the video, they put up a little box in the lower left corner that shows respiration, pulse, airspeed and altitude.
Felix’s jump lasted 9:09 minutes from the time he stepped off the jump platform until his feet touched the ground. 4:22 of that time was in freefall without using his drogue. A drogue is a small parachute designed to stabilize a free-falling person or object.
The jump was recorded by multiple GoPro cameras, and the video quality is phenomenal. I suggest you watch it full screen in the highest definition.
For more about the jump, here is the mission website: