Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sound Barrier Skydive Stunt Successful

Baumgartner Breaks Sound Barrier In Free Fall Jump

Update: At 2:08 P.M, 2:35 hours after launch, and at 128,000 feet (24 miles high), the jump from the balloon was made.

He made a world record free fall speed of 729 mph, falling for 4 minutes until the parachute opened.

Felix Baumgartner, 43 was ready to go Sunday morning as his balloon launched at 11:30 a.m. eastern time for another attempt to break both the sound barrier in freefall and a 52-year-old record for highest-altitude jump.

(photo: Baumgartner in his "space suit" a few minutes after balloon launch Sunday morning)

The helium filled balloon, ten times thinner than a sandwich bag, is pulling the capsule with Baumgartner inside upward at about 1,000 feet per minute, and traveling eastward from Roswell, New Mexico at as high as 124 mph through the jet stream.

Baumgartner, from Austria, got a new chance to jump from 36,576 meters today, as the weather cooperated with quiet winds to allow the launch from Roswell. (The actual jump was from 39,000 meters)

65 years ago today, on October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. Baumgartner is trying to fly through the sound barrier without the aid of an aircraft and provide another milestone in aerospace exploration, to make future space travel safer.

(photo: capsule 19 minutes after launch at 24,805 feet)

Baumgartner, who said he relishes the chance to break four world records exactly 65 years to the day after Yeager first broke the sound barrier in an airplane, said before the launch, "I'm here with my family and friends who are all super supportive. I go to the gym and try to keep myself fit. I've done all of my homework. Had all of my briefings with the team I trust. All we are waiting for now is the weather."

Baumgartner needed near wind-less conditions at ground level and clear skies to get his balloon inflated and then aloft. He is riding in a space capsule attached to a 850,000 cubic meter helium balloon to a record-breaking altitude of 36,576 meters (120,000 feet). There the 43-year-old adventurer will jump out into the lifeless stratosphere and attempt to break the sound barrier at speeds near 1,110 km/h during his plunge back to earth.

(photo: jumping from capsule at 128,000 feet)

After training for five years for the leap that is designed to improve our scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space, Baumgartner was just minutes away from launch on Tuesday when a sudden gust of wind knocked the top of the balloon at 230 meters high down to the ground and forced the mission to be scrapped. 

Baumgartner has learned a thing or two about the need to be patient from Joe Kittinger, who 52 years ago as an U.S. Air Force Captain set the record for highest altitude jump that the Austrian is now trying to break. Kittinger, who is now an advisor to the project and Baumgartner's mentor, also had to endure a long wait for the ideal conditions before his jump.

photo credit: Red Bull Media House

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