Ultimate Skydiving: Faster than Mach I Without an Airplane

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:


17 thoughts on “Ultimate Skydiving: Faster than Mach I Without an Airplane”

  1. Oh, yes, that skydive was a beautifully spectacular demonstration of human capability when people are accurate enough about what they can do and what they need to do what they can do.

    As his needs were well met, the skydive went well.

    It tends to be when needs are not well met that things tend to go awry, methinks.

  2. Truth or Consequences? Oops, is that a trademark or the name of a city in New Mexico?

    As for, ” the first person ever to exceed the speed of sound without equipment.” :

    Was not the balloon “equipment”? Was not the apparatus he used for breathing “equipment”? Was not his protective suit “equipment”? Was not his parachute “equipment”?

    Did he not have the equipment (physiological, mental, and elsewise) to survive the sky dive alive?

    Without equipment? Huh, what?

    No wonder some autistic people (me, for example) find it difficult to impossible to trust words.

    1. “That’s fast moving…”

      Just a little earlier I was thinking of the technique that must have been required to slow the fall from ~700 mph. Before I saw the video, had you asked, I would have guessed that a fabric ‘chute would have been ripped right off.

  3. That dude stepping off of that platform and plummeting downward toward a distant planet is one of the great visual moments of all time. I have watched it more times than I can count, and I still hold my breath in awe.

  4. Thank you so much, professor, for making my favorite blog even better…..

  5. Bull is gross. Skydiving is fun. Overly ridiculous, this. I’d rather try one of those fly suits over the fjords.

  6. Much of the the beginning of the video reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey

  7. me:wow.
    my sister;wow.
    my son:whoa
    my sister again: wait a damn minute is he?
    my niece: noooooooooooooo he’s gonna crash.
    my nephew: who the hell is crazy enough to try this type of stunt…
    my son: awwwwwww hell 2 da naw….
    my son/nephew i finally have a hero in my life.. wait aunty let me see that again..
    me to my lil daughter: lil girl you cant stop screaming and crying now the man is not dead sheesh…

    lol all the comments made by my family members as we watched this video

  8. I would love to have taken that ride to that height, but I am not so sure about that first step coming back. How did they get the capsule back down? I assume it had to be a big chute and what kind of gas did they use? Helium is pretty pricey for that kind of volume.

  9. He landed on his feet!!!

    If that is what Red Bull does for you I think I will stick to the gin if its all the same to you.

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